Images by Chris Faraone
Let’s say that you are driving to Canada with four pounds of weed in your trunk.
You arrive at the border crossing, and a nosy agent asks you to pull over so that his colleagues can inspect your vehicle and underpants.
At this point, you can’t just say to the authority figure, “You know what, I don’t really feel like going to Canada anymore,” and pull a U-turn. Do that, and chances are you’ll get your marijuana confiscated, and probably have to face a judge and serve time.
While said arrangement may be routine for those caught with a hand in the cookie jar in real life, the team at Boston 2024 lives by a different set of rules. In their world of extraordinary privilege and pay-to-play politics, they get to turn the car right around—that despite their having demonstrated an enduring lack of honesty. From redacting critical documents on everything from financing to venues in presenting their initial plans, to blurring more lines between business and state than Dick Cheney, Olympics organizers have repeatedly shown that claiming one thing and then doing the opposite constitutes behavior worthy of a second chance. That was the lesson on display this past week, as the Hub awaited the arrival of an improved 2024 development plan.
Days before they got a chance to hit “refresh” with their new presentation though, Olympic honchos started marketing their “Version 2.0” in front of the Boston City Council. Members came with expectations that the planners would have details, but Boston 2024 CEO Richard Davey had other ideas, and instead offered a time-lapse video to demonstrate how quickly workers can erect and then dismantle temporary stadiums these days. With more excuses than information bursting from his permanently optimistic mug, Davey dodged and weaved and did what may have been his greatest Good Guy Greg impression to date.
Asked if Boston 2024 has reached out to the 30-plus colleges in Boston besides the behemoths, Davey assured that such coordinating efforts are in place, but then proceeded to name-drop the likes of Boston University, MIT, Harvard, and Northeastern. Instead of news that may have quelled officials in the chamber, some of whom grew visibly perturbed by Davey’s lack of answers, the CEO then offered additional notes about nothing anybody seemed to care too much about, right down to the fact that several golf clubs want to host the Games, and that advancements in technology will allow architects to designate less space for the media than in London three years ago.
Whether intentional or not, Councilor Matt O’Malley highlighted the absurdity of it all by mentioning the sport of slalom kayaking. Whether you approve of critics noting the innumerable important issues to which our City Council could be tending, consider how much valuable time our elected pols have already spent considering competitive badminton and horse-dancing. Councilors Michelle Wu and Tito Jackson both raised excellent points as well: respectively, that private builders shouldn’t get unbridled dibs on hot new parcels forged by Olympic development, and that planners shouldn’t get a crack at 2.0 until they atone for their sins from round one. If it’s full transparency they’re after, however, Wu and Jackson needn’t look any further than the several thousand emails unearthed by anti-Olympics activists. Thanks to individuals and the group No Boston 2024, the public is now privy to the ungodly conflicts of interest polluting the planning process.
While community members met in auditoriums over the winter, we now know that the administration of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh was collaborating in questionable cahoots with Boston 2024, as well as with researchers at UMass-Boston who cooked pro-Olympic studies, and with a third-party public relations firm hired to boost the Games. We know that reporters seeking the truth were handled, so to speak, by government employees, and that constituents were monitored for how much nonsense they could stomach. There’s no end to the subterfuge, though certain correspondence especially serves to magnify the underlying disdain for community input afoot. Behold the following excerpt from a memo sent to Mayor Walsh about a public forum held by Boston 2024 in January …
Went remarkably smooth. Was even applause after showing the two initial videos at start of program. They had a lot of speakers … so there was less time for community input. The Q&A was only about an hour … No real awkward or tense moments. One question asked why public wasn’t consulted before this stage, and in a room of 366+ about 7 or 8 people clapped.
In the same internal update, Walsh’s community liaison expresses concern that organizers were keeping city officials in the dark. “2024 also announced their next … meeting … in Roxbury,” the note reads. “This bothers me because they never told us this schedule.” All of which should bother Boston residents the most; while on one hand members of the mayor’s media relations crew are spending hours on some days concocting comments crude enough to count as propaganda, on the other hand the Walsh administration hasn’t used its insider position to protect Bostonians.
All those gripes aside … While some easygoing people may give the benefit of the doubt to Boston 2024, and quote their spokespeople extensively, on this matter I have chosen to opt out of formal Q&A charades. However I enjoy the sport of watching these Goliaths squirm, and so I arrived early at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in Southie for Monday’s ceremonial unveiling of the eagerly anticipated two-point-uh-oh version of the Boston Games.
A scene out of Groundhog Day, from the very first PowerPoint slide, the presentation packed the same alternative spin on reality that curmudgeons have come to expect on Planet 2024. In this latest creative narrative, the story goes that Lowell State Sen. Eileen Donoghue was initially interested in bringing the world’s largest sporting event to Boston, followed by a legislative process and “seven public meetings,” after which a “group of citizens then explored the idea further,” therefore spurring Suffolk Construction CEO John Fish to join and “lead the effort.” Among the details omitted: the part where Fish and his cronies max-out donations to Donoghue’s campaign fund.
That foundation of trust established, Boston 2024 Chairman Steve Pagliuca then told the audience of journalists and sycophants (and some who toe the line in-between) that roughly 4,000 people had worked on the bid so far. Our heads still ringing from the number, myself and possibly some other critics scared that legions of Olympic volunteers were soon to burst into the room and bullshit all us skeptics into reluctant submission, Pagliuca then proceeded to unload a barrage of statistics—something about 100,000 jobs, 8,000 apartments, billions of dollars in revenue, and insurance claims for insurance claims, which sounds sort of like a condom for your condom. Standing in front of an Olympic banner warning, “If You Fail To Prepare, You’re Prepared To Fail,” the chairman then set up parameters that he says can ensure success, dissenters be damned.
Lowball tactics or reflexive defense, it’s hard to not admire Boston 2024 at least a little for still competing—even though they get to play by different rules than the rest of us, all while derailing municipal business and exhausting the regional media. In a moment of humility this week, Pagliuca even cracked a couple of self-deprecating jokes about being a lame accountant, a numbers guy. It was all presumably so he can easily deflect swipes similar to this one, which stubbornly skirt over trivial mathematical minutiae, but at least his number two stinks slightly less than the debut proposal that Olympics planners pinched.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.