Image via No Boston Olympics
When something’s not working, it’s a good idea to switch up. That was likely the thinking behind Boston 2024’s community outreach meeting at English High School in Jamaica Plain last week, since over the previous six months, the group’s format has been familiar and frustrating: Olympic organizers wasted the first hour or so reviewing bid plans and touting the potential legacy of a Summer Games, while the accomplished athletes in attendance tried their best to force compliance through nostalgia.
Last week was different. Spokespeople for Boston 2024, whose so-called “2.0” bid was recently unveiled to the public and the United States Olympic Committee, began with a presentation of their updated plans. After that, attendees were asked to split into breakout groups. Some people joined the micro chats, which were parsed by topic, but a lot of community members—some who were for, and others who spoke out against the Games—remained in the auditorium. And that’s when things got ugly …
First, people in the crowd began shouting at the speakers. After that, they shouted at each other, effectively disrupting the presentation. Before long, it became clear that the event organizers were unwilling to turn any meaningful authority over to members of the public. To make matters worse, John FitzGerald, who serves as Mayor Marty Walsh’s liaison to Boston 2024, cried for “common decency,” and claimed he was there to defend the community’s interest—that despite internal emails, recently made public through records requests, showing the extent to which he’s pushed the Olympics agenda.
If Walsh is committed to having public opinion fairly represented at such meetings, he should boot FitzGerald and find a less biased player. Extra points if that person doesn’t work at the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Unfortunately, these productions have merely imitated neighborhood involvement, and the mayor has proven time and again that he has little interest in considering constituent opinion. This lack of a sincere openness is driving a stake through Boston’s communities, pitting neighbors against one another, as some clamor for a piece of the pie, filling with premature pride at the sound of Olympic theme music, and others reject the pie altogether. A Hub Games may be nine years away, but the impact of Boston 2024 is already being felt.