Image by Tak Toyoshima
For those with the ability to think critically, Boston 2024 was unquestionably headed for dark waters before the bid landed on Plymouth Rock. Since Massachusetts was bestowed with the loaded honor of being thrown into the deep end of the international pool, the prospects for a Hub Olympics have grown uglier, muddier, and sleazier with each passing news cycle. Which is all the more reason why, now that the offending parties have been utterly humiliated, we feel it’s of the utmost importance to make sure the record shows what kind of horrors have unfolded.
It may seem inevitable that extraterrestrials, when they come to pick our bones, will find the proof that Boston folk were among very few other populations with enough smarts and privilege to stop an Olympics. After all, writers and opinion mongers produced countless op-eds, screeds, and flames in lambasting goons like John Fish, the construction honcho bolstering the 2024 bumrush, and Boston Globe columnist Shirley Leung, whose condemnations of the opposition’s tantrums ranged from amateurish propaganda to contrarianism stubborn enough to warrant comparisons to the late Christopher Hitchens flanking Dick Cheney’s war doctrine. Before you naively believe that all or even any of those adversarial voices will be remembered in time over the cheap boosterism of Leung, Olympics fanboys, and Walsh though, consider that as recently as two weeks ago, certain local television outlets were reporting that it was the mayor who was holding feet to the fire. That despite opponents of the bid having released thousands of pages of documents, obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, showing that his administration was in total cahoots with Boston 2024 PR flacks.
In the immediate wake of this tsunami, some positive voices are claiming, as expected, that the aftermath adds up to proof that Bostonians have superhuman resolve, and it can now be multiplied into various unique opportunities to spur development and greenlight sweeping infrastructural overhauls. Writing for CommonWealth Magazine, former Mass transportation secretary James Aloisi opined that “the end of the Boston 2024 Olympic bid says a lot about Boston 2015, and what it says bodes well for our future,” while in the Globe, political consultant Conor Yunits (a former No Boston 2024 operative turned neutralist) proposed, “As we either wallow or rejoice in the collapse of Boston 2024, we also need to think about the future.” Meanwhile, hardcore curmudgeons are now pushing for significant political retribution against Walsh and anybody else responsible for the distraction, while hacktacular Boston Herald humanitarian Howie Carr, no doubt too proudly ignorant and lazy to peruse the damning documents unearthed by activists, crudely suggested that the mayor took bribes from planners of the games to buy his “huge new mansion in Lower Mills.”
What’s as important as future productivity and accountability, however, is making sure the record’s set as straight as possible. Walsh may have stood before a gaggle of reporters earlier this week and made it look like he was shielding Boston from potential economic endangerment—certainly a lot of people outside of New England, or even those right here who paid scant attention to the crash course in procession, have already interpreted events that way—but only a work of fiction should find such conclusions. In reality, the mayor saved Bostonians from a Summer Games budget-fuck no more than someone who arranges for a kidnapping and then pays the ransom rescued a missing child. There’s a difference between Walsh not signing a guarantee to save face in light of public opposition and him acting altruistically, and considering how grassroots blowback clearly forced his hand, it’s hard to imagine him caring about any tax burden had residents not hooted and hollered.
In any case, so as to scratch as many scars into the furniture as possible before new fabulist perversions of Olympic history are sketched by candidates in the upcoming mayor’s race, we thought to highlight a select few moments of depravity that came to light in the volatile final week of battle:
- It turns out that, contrary to repeated claims that private funders would cover the tab, planners actually predicted a $471 million shortfall. Even worse, as if former governor and gambling enthusiast Deval Patrick consulted them from the beginning, the best idea that Boston 2024 could pitch to tackle cash flow issues was to hock Powerball tickets. From their initial proposal: “One potential revenue source Boston 2024 continues to actively investigate is licensing opportunities with state and national lotteries.”
- When the bids were originally released with omitted content, the Boston 2024 committee claimed that all of the omissions were proprietary content and that the US Olympic Committee would not allow them to be shared. When pressed, the mouthpieces explained that organizers were simply looking out for number one; if they shared expected acquisition costs up front, then they might lose footing when they finally negotiated for the land.
- It’s hardly gone unnoticed, but detractors had a major victory here, especially in light of how Boston 2024 strategists either lied at first in claiming to the USOC that haters were disorganized, or were so out of touch with public sentiment that they misled themselves.
And then there’s all the wasted time; anyone who thinks the state and city didn’t incur millions of dollars in indirect expenses in the past year probably also believes that the Patriots and Red Sox float their own parades. From councilors who took up hundreds of hours apiece in some cases wrestling the hideous Olympic beast to residents who had to pay for childcare so that they could attend meaningless and patronizing neighborhood meetings, we are all worse off. Think about the ink spilled on this joke; by our count, between Jan 8, when the USOC chose Boston, and this Monday, the Globe ran no less than 364 articles on the topic, with the Herald pushing close to 200 headlines.
As for how this failure will be written into history, there’s little doubt that the current embarrassment will beget bullshit. That’s the way it’s been with Olympic millionaires all the way back to the late 19th century, when the debut games in Athens nearly didn’t happen as a result of planners underestimating expenses and clashing with a government that was initially reluctant to support a lottery to pay for the party. Sound familiar? Back then, an enthusiastic public ultimately moved the ruling prince to give his blessing, but headaches for the wealthy Greeks behind the sporting event weren’t over.
Prone to obscene overruns from day one, those first modern Olympics saw its central venue, the solid marble Panathenaic Stadium, cost nearly double the originally estimated 585,000 drachmas. More than a century later, many of those hiccups have been scrubbed from the official record, as have the names of the men who cut the marble and in some cases probably lost their lives during construction. When people look back at what happened to the Boston Olympics, it’s important to remember how the monsters who attempted to bring 2024 to our shore were not misunderstood heroes who were ahead of their time, but rather egomaniacal stinkards who were put in their place by the public.
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.