Boston’s Olympic bid would set stage for city’s 400th anniversary

By John Powers, Globe Staff  December 18, 2014

Boston’s quest for the 2024 Summer Olympics will be part of the city’s transformative vision for itself as it enters its fifth century, its bidders say. “Mayor Walsh never focuses on 2024,” Dan O’Connell, president of the Boston 2024 Partnership, said Wednesday. “He always focuses on 2030.”
That is the year when the city will celebrate the 400th anniversary of its founding and the 2024 Games are designed to be part of an enduring legacy that will leave reshaped neighborhoods, a modern transportation system, and campus improvements for the local universities whose facilities and land are a vital part of the Olympic venue plan.

“The Mayor never talks about the Games as the entity,” O’Connell said the day after the US Olympic Committee confirmed that it would bid for the 2024 event and would choose a candidate next month from among Boston, two-time host Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington. “It’s the Games as a step along the way to where Boston’s going. The infrastructure expenditures have lasting values that might be accelerated by the Games and would give you that deadline that you need to get work done.”

At Tuesday’s presentation at the USOC’s board meeting in Redwood City, Calif., Walsh stressed not only the city’s unmatched collection of universities and colleges but also its global reach and said that the Olympics would help bring about the planned transformation of the city.
“2030 was a cornerstone of the mayor’s remarks,” O’Connell said. “He talked about the 400th anniversary and said that he wanted to look beyond that to the next 100 years and that he saw the Games as a way to prepare us for that celebration and to make some investments that will have long-standing value.”

Much of the revitalization would be centered around the Olympic village tentatively planned for the site of the former Bayside Expo Center and for a temporary stadium in South Boston near Interstate 93 on primarily public land that later could be transformed into a mixed-use development of housing, retail, and entertainment that would link the South End with South Boston.

“That area is a no-man’s land right now,” said O’Connell. “But there’s great public transportation there with the Red Line stations at Broadway and Andrew and you can put a temporary commuter station in. There’s a small portion of the site that’s a food co-op and we’d need to be able to negotiate some sort of relocation with them.”

The Olympic village would be constructed with modular units that later could be used by students at adjacent UMass-Boston as well as for worker housing elsewhere. The universities were central to Boston’s pitch as an international city. “We educate the world here,” said O’Connell. “We have more than 50,000 foreign students, many of them from Asia.”

Using college facilities such as Harvard Stadium and Boston University’s Agganis Arena, which are within walking distance of public transportation, would spare the organizers from having to acquire private land while providing upgrades to those venues. The organizers also could share with the schools in the cost of building new facilities like an aquatics center on their property.

The International Olympic Committee’s recent Agenda 2020 decision to allow future hosts to use existing, temporary and reusable venues was a benefit to Boston, whose plan depends upon minimizing costly permanent facilities. The IOC also will allow for the first time multiple signatories to the host city contract, which would enable the organizers to partner with the private sector to build temporary facilities on land that could be developed commercially after the Games.

“It couldn’t have come at a better time for us,” said O’Connell. “It meshes so well with the way that we’ve approached the Games. The temporary venues, the sustainability, the innovation, the technology. That’s all Boston, that’s all Massachusetts. We think in Boston we could really be an example of how Agenda 2020 can work for the Games moving forward.”