Image by Chris Faraone
At a community meeting hosted by the City of Boston last week, dozens of South Boston residents packed into the cafeteria in the Condon School on D Street to ask questions and raise concerns about the 2024 Olympic bid. After nearly an hour of presentations by co-hosts from Boston 2024, including words from “Miracle on Ice” gold medalist Dave Silk on the transformative power of sports, the panel finally opened to questions from the audience.
It was clear that the crowd slanted in favor of the Olympics; Silk’s brandishing of his gold medal even incited chants of “USA! USA!”—essentially a war cry at this point. But between questions about property legacy and full-on gushing over Olympic greatness, Dr. Edmund Schluessel of the National Union of Students stepped up to the microphone and raised a topic that few have addressed since the bid was announced: sex trafficking.
Schluessel rattled off a laundry list of news reports of spikes in trafficking and prostitution around big sporting events: In Athens, for example, sex trafficking almost doubled during the 2004 Olympics. Leading up to the 2012 Games, police in London secured £600,000 to pay for a specialized unit to “tackle the expected surge in sex trafficking.”
The facts elicited laughs and jeers; with the lunchroom surroundings, it felt like a high school sex education class. Some people even booed. The panel’s response: This, sir, is the United States of America, not hedonistic Europe. When confronted with the fact that a scandal involving IOC members accepting prostitutes as bribes took place in Salt Lake City, the answer was revised: That kind of thing just doesn’t happen in Boston. Which is patently untrue.
“Indeed, just months ago in Boston there were some prominent human trafficking arrests,” Schluessel wrote me in an email. “The assertion from the panel that human trafficking wouldn’t be a problem because the Games would be in the USA was simply bizarre.”
There is a large body of evidence showing that events like the Olympics and even the Super Bowl fuel the skin trade. Boston 2024, however, is either unwilling to address the point, or is simply too caught up in land grabbing and its media relations spin campaign to realize the potential problem. Either way, it’s obvious that they have not taken the issue seriously, or considered the violence against women that they are inviting into Boston’s most vulnerable neighborhoods.
Not like anyone expected much more from a cabal of rich white men.