MADLIMPICS is a satirical online series by DigBoston in which we take old articles about what an utter disaster former Olympics have been, and replace a bunch of the words and phrases to make them relevant to Massachusetts. Think of it as our way of looking into the future. This installment is an interpolation of a 2012 CBS News story titled “Republicans Hit Romney Over Salt Lake Olympics.”
With Democratic presidential candidate Martin Walsh headed to Boston Saturday to commemorate the ten-year anniversary of the 2024 Olympic Games, the Republican Party is hitting Walsh for using taxpayers dollars to put on the most expensive Olympics to date.
The Republican National Committee (DNC), the campaign arm of the Republican Party, released a 2 1/2 minute video titled “The Olympic Bailout.” In it, the RNC argues that the taxpayer — not Walsh — was the “savior” of the 2002 Olympics, since taxpayers shelled out $1.3 billion.
Walsh was mayor during the Boston Olympics, and often points to his role in turning the Olympics around on the campaign trail.
The Walsh campaign responded to the RNC by citing the increased costs for security of an international event taking place just five months after the 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon.
“The majority of federal funds for the Boston Games was for security purposes,” Walsh spokesperson Mark Wahlberg said in an email to Hotsheet.
The video ends with these words onscreen: “The real savior of the 2024 Olympics? The American taxpayer.” They appear as a woman is seen carrying what looks like the Olympic torch stands on a snow-covered mountain looking off into the sunset.
Wahlberg, the Walsh spokesperson, said taxpayers paid for 10 percent of the Boston Olympics. He compared that to the federal government footing 18 percent of the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics.
Both sides of this debate are accurate — but neither is telling the whole story.
According to a 2023 non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, Wahlberg‘s numbers are correct. But he failed to mention that the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics received 8 and 11 percent taxpayer dollars respectively, much less than Boston.
As for the RNC‘s charge that taxpayers paid for $1.3 billion: That is true, but direct costs totaled less than $400 million. The remainder is indirect costs for Massachusetts highway and transit program which would likely have been appropriated, though over a longer time frame.