Last week Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and some brain trustees behind the 2024 Olympics bid fielded questions in a packed press conference at Suffolk University Law School. Instead of answers however, journalists were handed platitudes and a pile of bullshit tall enough to challenge a gold medalist pole-vaulter.
Let’s look at the players. John Fish runs Suffolk Construction, which is frequently contracted and subcontracted for large development projects around Boston. He also happens to be at the forefront of the Boston 2024 campaign, though in introducing himself before taking questions, his list of intentions strangely omitted the part in which he gets insanely rich.
On the other hand, Fish was helpful enough to explain why the Hub should host the Games: “We are the first generation in America that has inherited this community and we’re leaving it worse off than when we received it. We have an $18 trillion debt; we have significant global warming issues; we also have a chaotic global environment,” said Fish, without a shred of self-awareness. “How does the Olympics fit into the conversation?”
Apparently, all the world’s problems can be solved through volleyball and shuffleboard, dressage and diving. Some Olympic boosters in the crowd believed it, but the majority at Suffolk were opposed. Many said they worried that Boston would become the next in a long line of cities to lose money on the games. Other spoke about the likelihood that hosting would lead to further gentrification in a city that is already facing a housing and affordability crisis.
Several critics brought up Andrew Zimbalist, author of the book Circus Maximus, which casts a critical eye on the Games. Zimbalist spent years studying the economic impact of the International Olympic Committee coming to town, and has scant positive things to say about the organization. As far as he’s concerned, there is a seemingly absolute likelihood of cost overruns.
“Dr. Zimbalist has made a career out of making statements that can be taken out of context,” said Fish, who did not specifically address the writer’s forecast. After effectively dodging criticism, the Suffolk CEO offered: “It is our intention to set up a privatization program. Private developers or entities would take the risk to put their capital up, then lease those facilities to another entity.”
Still a few questions remain, namely: Is that other entity also private? Is the city involved? How about the state? Does it even matter considering that Fish only promised to try?
Meanwhile, Fish initially pledged to abstain from any “Olympics-related” work. In the time since though, he’s clarified that his company will not bid on any projects directly related to Olympic venues. The way it seems, he’s only promised to not bid, which doesn’t necessarily prevent Suffolk from sub-contracting. As for “Olympic venues,” it’s hard to imagine that phrasing pertaining to the construction of hotels, roadwork, or the expansion of existing facilities. Perhaps we’ll find out more at the next presser.