By Barry Janoff
January 8, 2015: By many accounts, Boston has survived the Big Dig.
Now it's time to see if Boston survives the Big Bid.
The U.S. Olympic Committee has named Boston as the city that will represent the U.S. in its bid for the opportunity to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The decision came following a meeting by USOC committee members on Thursday (Jan. 8) in Denver International Airport, some three weeks after the USOC met in the offices of Electronic Arts in Redwood City, Calif. and heard bid pitches from Boston as well as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington D.C.
According to the USOC, the decision "followed a spirited discussion and more than one round of voting. Ultimately, the Boston bid received the unanimous endorsement of the USOC’s board of directors."
The next moves now take on the attributes of an event that embodies Boston as much as any other, being a marathon rather than a sprint to the finish line.
The International Olympic Committee’s deadline for 2024 bid submissions is Sept. 15, 2015, with the host city to be determined in 2017.
The last time the U.S. hosted the Summer Games was 1996 in Atlanta; the last Winter Games on U.S. soil was 2002 in Salt Lake CIty.
“We’re excited about our plans to submit a bid for the 2024 Games and feel we have an incredibly strong partner in Boston that will work with us to present a compelling bid,” Larry Probst, USOC chairman, said upon making the decision public. “We’re grateful to the leaders in each of the four cities for their partnership and interest in hosting the most exciting sports competition on earth. The deliberative and collaborative process that we put in place for selecting a city has resulted in a strong U.S. bid that can truly serve the athletes and the Olympic and Paralympic movements.”
At least equally excited were President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, who released a statement through White House press secretary Josh Earnest.
"The President and First Lady extend their congratulations to the City of Boston on its nomination by the United States Olympic Committee to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The city has taught all of us what it means to be Boston Strong. The President and First Lady couldn't be prouder of this accomplishment and of all of our nation's athletes, and strongly support the effort to bring the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games to the United States. We hope to welcome athletes from around the globe to compete in Boston in 2024."
Putting in a bid for and then actually hosting the Olympics comes with numerous legitimate concerns, not the least of which is the cost.
The overall cost for staging the 2012 Summer Games in London topped $14 billion. including $808 million for security and $215 million for what was called "operational provisions," with taxpayers footing a significant portion, according to the British government's Department for Culture Media and Sport.
Bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympics initially included Oslo, Stockholm, Krakow, Munich and a joint bid from Davos/St. Moritz, but they all dropped out, agreeing with Stockholm officials that revenues probably "would be lower and costs higher" than estimated. Left standing: Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan.
According to the bid submitted by Boston 2024, "No tax dollars have been spent on Boston 2024, and tax dollars will not be used to build venues or pay for the operation of the Games. Public investment will be confined to roadway, transportation and infrastructure improvements, most of which are already planned and are needed with or without the Olympics. The federal government will pay security costs, as it does for all U.S. Games."
Although the U.S. has not hosted the Summer Games for nearly 20 years, bids were submitted to host the 2012 Summer Games (New York) and the 2016 Summer Games (Chicago). The U.S. lost both times, to London and Rio de Janeiro, respectively.
Leaders in Rome already have decided to submit a bid for the 2024 Games. Paris politicians said they would unveil early this year whether or not they would seek a bid. Germany said it would unveil in March whether or not to host the Olympics that year, either in Hamburg or Berlin.
Other potential candidates include Budapest, Istanbul, a joint South Africa bid for Johannesburg-Pretoria; Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan; and Doha, the capital of Qatar. The latter two cities lost to Tokyo in the bid to host the 2020 Summer Games.
“Today’s selection by the USOC is the beginning of an incredible opportunity for Boston,” said John Fish, Boston 2024 chairman. “This bid has already provided our many educational institutions, community and business leaders, and elected officials a unique opportunity to collaborate like never before to promote our city to the world."
Under a new structure, the IOC will meet with representatives from each applicant city from Oct. 7-9, 2015, in Lausanne, Switzerland, to establish rules and procedures for the international bidding campaign. Cities will then have until Jan. 8, 2016, to submit final bids to the IOC, just six months before the Summer Games in Rio.
The 2020 Summer Games will be held in Tokyo, where at the conclusion a ceremonial hand-off of the Olympic flame will be held between members of the Tokyo committee and representatives of the 2024 host.
Marketing will play a major role in garnering support of people nationwide and to promote Boston to the IOC. The USOC, following its selection of Boston, posted a spot on its Facebook page and YouTube featuring clips of great moments from U.S.-hosted Summer and Winter Olympics Games. A voiceover offers, "There comes a time to welcome the world and inspire a nation. That time is now," followed by scenes of Boston and the text, "Boston 2024." (See the spot here.)
Paying close attention to the proceedings are the IOC's global top tier marketing partners — Atos, Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, General Electric, McDonald's, Omega, Panasonic, Samsung and Visa — as well as the USOC's bevy of domestic partners.
“This bid uniquely combines an exciting, athlete-focused concept for hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games with Boston’s existing long-term vision."
Also paying close attention is Comcast's NBCUniversal, which this past May was awarded exclusive Olympic Games broadcast rights in the U.S. through 2032 in a deal put at more than $7.6 billion by industry analysts. That extended NBC's current deal, which ran through 2020,
“[This] decision begins the next phase in our 2024 bid campaign, and we couldn’t be more excited about the partnership we’ve established with the leadership team in Boston,” said Scott Blackmun, CEO for the USOC. “This bid uniquely combines an exciting, athlete-focused concept for hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games with Boston’s existing long-term vision. We look forward to working with Mayor Walsh and the Boston 2024 team to fully engage with the local community and identify ways we can make the bid even better.”
Among the reasons the U.S. has not put in more bids has been the nation's economic crisis and a fallout between officials of the USOC and IOC over sponsorship and broadcast revenues. Changes at the top also waylaid strategy. In 2009, Jim Scheer resigned as USOC CEO after six years in the position, and seven months later acting CEO Stephanie Streeter also left the post.
The position has been more stable with Blackmun as CEO for the USOC since 2010.
The four cities that made bid pitches to the USOC in December were narrowed down this past June from a longer list that also included Dallas and San Diego.
In addition to Atlanta, the only other U.S. cities to host Summer Games are St. Louis (1904) and Los Angeles (1932 and 1984).
Among the criteria a city needs in order to gain an Olympic Games bid, according to the USOC, are 45,000 hotel rooms, an Olympic Village that sleeps 16,500 athletes and contains a dining hall that can accommodate 5,000 people, space for at least 15,000 members of the media and a workforce of up to 200,000.
"Going forward, Boston 2024 is committed to a thorough and extensive process to discuss the potential opportunity the Olympic and Paralympic Games present our community," said Boston 2024 chairman Fish. "Boston is a global hub for education, health care, research and technology. We are passionate about sports because we believe in the power of sport to transform our city and inspire the world’s youth. A Boston Games can be one of the most innovative, sustainable and exciting in history and will inspire the next generation of leaders here and around the world.”
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