The Olympics will not be coming to Boston in 2024.
Which is too bad. How great would it have been to have the world focus on this great city for a few weeks?
Of course, this is said naively without any reference to the gritty impacts and financial effort needed to properly stage such an international event.
Since I was a little kid, the Olympics, especially the Summer version, have held a special fascination. Track and Field, Swimming, Boxing, Wrestling.... it is a chance to demonstrate peak performance to the world and is a showcase of fundamental human potential.
Melbourne, Tokyo, Mexico City, Munich, Montreal, Moscow, Los Angeles, Barcelona, London.... every four years was a benchmark and a focus for tremendous athletic effort.
When Jimmy Carter decided to politicize the event and pull out of the Moscow Olympics.... ironically because of the involvement of the USSR in Afghanistan..... he corrupted the concept with his self righteous dictate. Of course the Russians retaliated by boycotting the subsequent Los Angeles games, and the hopes of a generation of athletes were soured.
And the slaughter of Israeli Athletes in Munich by Arab Extremists showed the world how imperfect a civilization this continues to be in our modern era.
Yet the concept of the world coming together to compete every four years has survived, and Boston, the victim of the unthinkable atrocity at the Boston Marathon just two years ago, gamefully pitched its hat in the ring.
John Fish, the hard driving and ultra successful President of Suffolk Construction, first became the public face in the effort to attract the Olympics to Boston in 2024. I knew Fish when he was just starting out, and I always liked him as a person and admired his drive. I believe his efforts were sincere and driven by a civic and patriotic desire to showcase his city, but he was met with negative skepticism of seeking to profit from the development of the Games here. Even when he recused his construction company from any involvement, the criticism continued.
Boston is the home of many great things, but is also the home of the Big Dig, the development of an underground highway system which had become so rift with billion dollar overruns that it was impossible to calculate the financial hemorrhaging or assess the mismanagement.
Then the big mistake happened in my admittedly limited viewpoint. A committee of paid consultants and staff, including former Gov. Deval Patrick and numerous outgoing bureaucrats were formed to spearhead the effort to secure the Olympic designation.
After the advent of Patrick on the scene, and the sense of another bureaucratic feeding frenzy, the public skepticism would be difficult to overcome. When guys like Fish were displaced, with Patrick and his cronies bellying up to an open bar, you had to be extremely naive not to believe that the Boston and Massachusetts taxpayers would not be mortgaged with another wasteful and corrupt financial boondoggle.
Mayor Marty Walsh saw the writing on the wall, and pulled the plug today after noting that the City of Boston taxpayers would have to insure the International Olympic Committee that overruns would he covered. How could any Boston politician comply with this stipulation with a straight face, given the history of the big dig and the bureaucratic hacks circling like vultures?
If John Fish could have run this like a private venture, Boston would have its Olympics. But that wasn't going to happen. Marty Walsh saw the reality, and did the right thing.
It could have been great though. But not this time.