Images by Chris Faraone
I’ll cut to the chase: At the press conference in South Boston today where Mayor Marty Walsh and his Boston 2024 pals formally announced the selection of their bid by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), I felt like I was sitting at a funeral. Specifically it reminded me of my grandfather’s wake, and how I wanted to throw rocks at the priest for pretending it was a positive moment. I expected this to be a bitter pill to swallow if the day ever came, but in all my years as a reporter I have never felt so damn defeated.
To hell with any bullshit that Olympic planners have said about how their process is “just getting started,” or about how “people have seen some of the plans,” as Walsh suggested this morning. Those are lies and quarter-truths, and should be reported as such for the next decade if need be. The fact is Boston 2024 has been organizing for more than a year; their having conceded this and praised their own hard work repeatedly while also insisting otherwise seems right out of the playbook of comedian Steven Wright, who claims to only drink five cups of coffee a day, but doesn’t start tallying until his third cup.
The presser was about as sickening as expected, with songs like “Come Together” playing, as if The Beatles gave a damn about track and field, and a stage stocked with a diverse spread of smiling athletes, as if the Games have anything to do with sports. It felt like a cross between a house-flipping seminar and whatever happens inside a Scientology center, right down to the terrifyingly ominous Boston 2024 logo stamped beside the stage.
All things considered, the answer was obvious when Walsh opened the event by asking, “Wow can you believe this?” I can’t speak for the rest of the media, but I certainly could not. In covering the 2013 mayoral race, I didn’t see Marty as the Manchurian type, yet there he was thanking John Fish, the CEO of Suffolk Construction, for his “unwavering lead,” and for “putting aside a lot of his business” to pursue the bid. It was a speech fit for a ventriloquist, and Fish grinned royally as he watched from the side.
For what it’s worth, Walsh is one hell of a soldier. He laid on thick his assurance that “Boston has a vision for a new kind of Olympics,” and announced nine community meetings between now and September. “I always stand by my word,” he said, promising the most transparent Olympics in history. The mayor also thanked the city workers there as well as state Sen. Eileen Donoghue, who helped make early legislative inroads for their efforts. Donoghue, however, was already thanked by Fish, who cut her campaign a $500 check in June and tapped her for the Boston 2024 executive committee.
If nothing else, at least now we know who really runs this city. Not students, not activists, not longtime residents, not even the benevolent pols. I’ve always understood that, but this is a particularly painful moment of impotence. The Hub has just been thrown against a brick wall, ice-cold brass Olympic rings pressed clean against its temple. Organizers say they’re just beginning, yet there’s already been talk of even small details, like where the marathon Finish Line might go. What if the public feels that it belongs in Readville? Or on Olympic-boosting Boston Globe columnist Shirley Leung’s front lawn, where the runners can use her throw towels to wipe their bloody nipples and ball sweat?
I’ll be at the coming public forums. All of them, though I’m certain they’ll accomplish nothing. How do I know? Because neither the city nor the Boston 2024 team acknowledges critical input, for or else Walsh and others wouldn’t already be trying to rhetorically minimize the impact on everything from traffic to municipal employee time, and they wouldn’t be casually ruling out the prospect of a public vote on whether we should host at all. There will be town hall meetings, sure, but it will be like when a parent sits their kid in front of an arcade game without putting a quarter in; we may think we’re playing, but it’s really the opposite.
By the time Walsh tried using the “100 texts” he received congratulating him last night as an Olympic mandate, I had more or less stopped paying attention. As I packed up before hitting the bathroom, all I could think about was how insufferable the next 10 years will be if our leaders and their puppet masters insist on continuing to pretend the Games are good for us. The thought stuck with me all the way to the urinal where, due to the flannel pajamas I had on under my jeans not having a dick hole, I accidentally peed all over my leg. Had Fish been standing in the next stall over and told me it was raining, I doubt it would have made me any dryer.