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Boston Mayor Says Olympic Bid Process is Flawed

27 Jan, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Walsh, on Anniversary of City’s Failed Selection as a USOC Candidate City, Says Changes are Needed

This summer, we’ll hit a milestone: the first anniversary of the first time a U.S. city ever pushed itself away from the bargaining table as a potential host for the Olympics.

The city, of course: Boston. And everyone remembers the USOC’s ill-fated selection of Beantown to host the 2024 Games. At the moment we’re at the six-month mark of that historic occasion, and six months has given Boston Mayor Marty Walsh some time to think about the issue.

The finger-pointing, which began almost immediately upon Boston’s withdrawal from the Games, is building again, thanks to the timing. A year ago, Boston had just been selected as the nominee city. And the #NoBostonOlympics buzz was just starting to simmer around the edges. It wouldn’t be long until the movement, which Walsh originally decried as "10 people on Twitter," had reached a rolling boil and couldn’t be ignored.

But Walsh, who says he learned a lot from hearing (and ultimately listening to) those complaints, also claims the sports world needs to reassess the way in which bids for the Olympics are sold. And all of it, he says, should be taken into consideration by the IOC when it comes to making decisions about how cities are treated, both in the bid process and beyond.

Walsh ultimately refused to sign the Host City Contract, which would have left Boston holding the bag, and (more than likely) ultimately charging taxpayers for the expenses that would have been incurred by the Games. Boston not signing killed the deal for the USOC which went on to look at other cities and ultimately chose Los Angeles.

According to an article in Inside The Games, Walsh has been blaming the USOC and the IOC for making it impossible for Boston to generate a realistic bid. Walsh also claimed that IOC President Thomas Bach tried to persuade him against holding a public referendum that would allow taxpayers to vote on whether or not they wanted an Olympics in town.

“I think there’s some unrealistic expectations put on the city,” he told the Boston Herald. The president of the IOC didn’t want a ballot question, and ironically his own town in Hamburg, Germany, voted down the Olympics. I think at some point the Olympics Movement as a whole, worldwide, has to start to say, 'Okay, how do we deliver a Games?’"

Bach blamed Boston’s organizing committee for the problems, saying the city was "pretty confusing" with their bid.

Ready to wash its hands of the whole sorry mess, the USOC, meanwhile, claimed Boston was a “bad call” on its part.

Walsh resented that, and insisted the bid was an “incredible opportunity” and that Boston would have done an "incredible job," had it been selected as the host city by the IOC.

Walsh was also critical of Bach's position, and said there wasn’t immediate disclosure as to the amount of money the city would have been liable for, had the Games come to New England.

“I don’t know about Thomas Bach, but I represent people, and I’m not going to allow taxpayer money to be used to fix a problem they clearly have internally, the IOC," he said at the time.

Not that Bach has any reason to love Boston now anyway. The #NoBostonOlympics group, in addition to unequivocally stating that Bach was “out of touch with reality,” travelled to Hamburg on the eve of their referendum last November to offer opponents in Germany advice.

The referendum to bring the Olympics to Hamburg failed.

Hamburg's withdrawal following the vote left a four-city race ahead of the 2017 IOC Session in Lima where a decision is due to be made. Competing cities are Rome, Budapest, Paris and Los Angeles.

Calls are currently growing for similar city-wide ballots to be held in Budapest and Rome; however, the Italian prime minister has insisted there is “no chance of Rome giving up its Olympic dreams.”

Just don’t tell that to #NoBostonOlympics, which has stated that it is backing Radicali Italiani, the left-wing Italian Radicals political party, one of whose goals it is to get a referendum to keep the Olympics out of Rome.

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