Organizers and opponents of the Boston 2024 Olympic Games squared off on Thursday night, debating the glorious possibilities of putting the Hub on the world stage and fixing our archaic transit system versus the prospect of a taxpayer-funded catastrophe big enough to become The Big Dig’s little brother.
Boston 2024 Chairman, Bain Capital darling and Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca said that the biggest risk is not seizing the opportunity.
“We want to move Boston forward,” Pagliuca said. “The Olympics can be a catalyst to do that.”
But co-chair of No Boston 2024 and economist at Smith College Andrew Zimbalist said that the budget figures were ambitions powered on “drunken optimism.” Those of us of legal drinking age who have closed out the bar on a Friday or Saturday night know how deceptive drunken optimism is at the time, and how unbearable it is in the morning after the circus leaves town.
Boston 2024 has had their feet publicly held to the fire long enough when it comes to disclosure of the original bid 1.0 in its entirety, instead of the redacted version that looked like a toddler got to it with a Sharpie. This had local legislators using harsh words to express disappointment throughout the passed week. In the face of such criticism, Pagliuca said the clean, legible version would be available on Friday.
But the U.S. Olympic Committee has to decide what happens next by September 15, which is both a month and some change and a lifetime away at the same time. While the USOC praised Boston 2024 for their vision, the public are less enthusiastic, as multiple polls will show. WBUR held a poll in July which showed that 40 percent of Bay State residents were in favor of the bid, and 50 percent flatout were opposed. In the Hub, the numbers were pretty similar, with 44 percent in favor and 48 percent against.
The question of how the Games would impact Widett Circle in Southie/South End/Roxbury convergence, Columbia Point in Dorchester, New Bedford, and Quincy after the goldrush is at the forefront of many minds after the question of potential public funding and how the T could handle the deluge of people are answered.
This heated contest is far from finished.