Editorial: Saying no to a Boston Olympics

The prospect of living alongside thousands of journalists might be enough to make anyone oppose a Boston Olympics bid. But there are many serious reasons that we take the unusual step of urging Mission Hill to join grassroots opponents of the Boston 2024 scheme.

It is rare that we advise saying “absolutely no” to a project. But the Olympics bid is breathtaking in its dubious assumptions, potential negative impacts, and sleight-of-hand “process.”

The bid has been created in secret by a private committee of tycoons and giant institutions called Boston 2024. The bid has already been submitted to the U.S. Olympic Committee without any public meetings or input. Boston 2024 had repeatedly refused to make the bid document public.

We all know what the Olympic Games offer: a spectacular display of the pinnacle of athletic achievement and the pushing of the limits of human physical ability. But what few non-experts know—and Boston 2024 is counting on this—are the many downsides for Olympic host cities.

Every Olympics goes over-budget and saddles taxpayers with unexpected debt. Every Olympics sparks intense gentrification and displacement of many residents and small businesses, often for Olympic facilities. Every Olympics involves heavy-handed militarized policing and round-ups of the homeless and other defenseless poor people. In many cases, public parks and open spaces are privatized for months, even a year or more.

Boston 2024 claims that it not only can avoid such negative outcomes, but will be a balm to the city’s housing crisis and transit dilemmas. But every recent Olympics has promised those things, too, and failed to deliver.

Indeed, there is no mechanism to hold Boston 2024, a private group, to any of its promises. Boston 2024 is now promising some sort of public input program, but there are no details on how it will work. The fact is, Boston 2024 does not need any general public vote or approval for this bid to progress. Indeed, it is already partly out of their hands and at the USOC, which next will decide whether to promote a U.S. bid to the International Olympic Committee. That group’s membership includes dukes, princes and sheiks, not Bostonians.

Mission Hill is a neighborhood that battled mightily to avoid being bulldozed, steamrolled and secretly bought out by giant institutions. Today it is a thriving community that forges partnerships with some of those institutions on local terms. The last thing Mission Hill, or Boston, needs is a return to the bad old days of secret institutional plans—and yes, Harvard is represented on Boston 2024—swallowing up communities and public resources.

Cambridge City Council recently voted to oppose that city’s involvement in any Boston Olympics planning, calling it a wasteful distraction from real local issues. Such groups as No Boston Olympics are working hard for the same reasons. We advise local residents to join them.

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