Boston Olympics organizers downplayed opposition, files show

AP News
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Posted: Jul 24, 2015 6:59 PM

BOSTON (AP) — Organizers of Boston's bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics downplayed the opposition that was already galvanizing against it, as well as the prospects of a voter referendum, according to the documents that won over the U.S. Olympic Committee.

The full, unredacted version of the bid was released Friday after city officials earlier this week called for their disclosure.

The documents reveal that organizers said a referendum was unlikely because it would cost "in excess of a million dollars" to launch and would be too "burdensome" and "onerous" for opponents to accomplish before 2018. Boston2024 also suggested they were prepared to challenge any referendum effort on a variety of fronts, including the courts and legislature.

A citizen's group earlier this month filed a request to place a referendum on the 2016 ballot that would effectively prevent state taxpayer dollars from being used on the games. Boston 2024 has also said it supports the idea of the ballot question and has been working to submit a proposal by the state's Aug. 5 deadline.

"Boston 2024 is afraid of a ballot question, and they've outlined a detailed plan to fight back against any effort to have one," said Evan Falchuk, a former gubernatorial candidate and an organizer of the citizen-led ballot referendum.

Boston 2024 Chairman Steve Pagliuca stressed the original bid book was simply a "proof of concept" that's since been supplanted by a more detailed and revised June proposal. "While it served that purpose well, it was not meant to be a final or operable plan," he said.

Opponents have countered that the original bid is still relevant because it provided a basis of comparison and also shows what promises organizers initially made to the USOC.

"The release of Boston 2024's unredacted bid documents confirm that the boosters have been saying one thing behind closed doors, and an entirely different thing to Massachusetts taxpayers," said the No Boston Olympics group, a citizen group that's become the de facto voice of opposition to the bid.

Boston 2024 released a partial version of its winning bid in January, after the USOC picked Boston over Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington D.C. But the privately funded organization declined to release the full version of the bid, citing "proprietary information" the USOC didn't want disclosed.

Scott Blackmun, CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, said Friday that the January release of the bid, while incomplete, was unprecedented.

Four of the six chapters of the original bid have since been made public through records requests; the final two chapters had not been disclosed. Among the other findings in the previously undisclosed chapters, which focused on finances and public and political support:

— Organizers initially projected the games to cost about $4.7 billion but run at a nearly $500 million deficit. Boston 2024's revised proposal shows a $4.6 billion budget with a surplus of just over $200 million.

— Boston 2024 anticipated submitting a raft of bills to the legislature to "facilitate public control of the land and infrastructure" and streamline the permitting process, among other things.

— Bob Kraft, the New England Patriots owner, was named as a member of Boston 2024's original board of directors. Boston 2024 now says his name was erroneously included.

— Early polling found the idea faced "significant resistance" from older, better educated and mostly white Bostonians but enjoyed support among minorities and youths.