Boston 2024 on Monday launched what it calls “Bid 2.0”, the second version of its Olympic plans that it has presented since being nominated by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) to bid for the Games in January. The bid, which has been struggling to remain viable amid public opinion polls showing support below 50%, has released plans much more detailed than typically seen prior to the nomination deadline of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) – which for the 2024 Games isn’t until September 15.
At a presentation, Steve Pagliuca, Chairman of Boston 2024 outlined financial information that disclosed forecast revenues of at least $4.85 billion (USD) but with expectations that it could top $5 billion. Operating costs are budgeted at $4.595 billion resulting in a surplus of about $210 million.
These costs include only operating expenses and Olympic specific venue components such as the build-out of the temporary Olympic stadium and Games requirements of the athletes’ village. New, permanent structures and infrastructure upgrades are not included.
Organizers plan to protect taxpayers with multiple layers of assurances in including the implementation of a 5% project contingency budget, the projected $210 million budget surplus, and a comprehensive insurance plan with budgeted premiums of $128 million that will protect against many types of claims that might normally result in cost over runs. Boston officials say they will improve upon the insurance concept pioneered by the failed Chicago 2016 Olympic bid.
The bid team claims to be benefitting from the IOC’s Agenda 2020 reforms that were approved last year, enabling the choice of more sensible venue locations along with temporary structures while saving costs and maintaining a compact footprint.
The 69,000 seat temporary Olympic Stadium to be built in “Midtown” will be the largest facility of its kind and will cost $175 million to “operate” presumably including the construction and dismantling and leasing of the reusable components. The legacy will be a new mixed-use space of commercial, residential and tourist areas.
Planners have included proposals for hosting Baseball, a sport removed from the Olympic program since the 2008 Games in Beijing but could be added to the Tokyo 2020 schedule if the IOC next year approves the sport’s bid for those Games. To be included in the 2024 Games, baseball would have to run a separate campaign.
Boston 2024 revealed that they spent “hours” meeting with London 2012 organizers to learn from them and plan accordingly. The strategy to regenerate derelict space in Midtown seems to mimic London’s plan to revitalize an area surrounding the Olympic Stadium – and other cost saving tactics such as the use of temporary facilities are common amongst the plans. But London’s budget was re-baselined soon after winning the 2012 bid when it was discovered it would cost billions of dollars more to deliver the proposed Games.
A statement in a Boston 2024 press release did offer this disclaimer: “Boston 2024 is still in the early stages of the bid, a multi-step, multi-year process…”
Bid 2.1, 2.2 and maybe Bid 3.0 can still be expected throughout the process.
Some details and specifics have been held back pending further public consultation, and presumably to maintain a competitive advantage over rival bids as has been customary in past campaigns.
In the critical arena of social media and public opinion where the ultimate fate of Boston 2024 may play out, reaction was polarizing with both #Boston2024 and #PullTheBid trending in Massachusetts at one point during the unveiling of the new plans.
Opposition group NoBoston2024 dug deep in the new documents to magnify the fine print not discussed on the Boston 2024 streaming video feed including claims that the Midtown site plan is a “land grab” paid for by taxpayers and that public funding was hidden in proposed tax breaks to developers.
The whole purpose of #Boston2024 is for developers to get their land grab and use your money for it. #pullthebid pic.twitter.com/O1bB93dUlV
— NoBoston2024 (@no_boston2024) June 29, 2015
#Boston2024 projects $4.805 billion in revenue. pic.twitter.com/M1jMZD2aWC
— Boston 2024 (@Boston2024) June 29, 2015
“The bottom line is that while no project is ever completely without risk, our fact-based analysis shows that the Games represent historic economic development opportunities that we may not see again,” Pagliuca said in a statement, seemingly directed to the critics.
“These are opportunities above and beyond the spotlight that will be on Boston for three weeks in the summer of 2024 – three weeks in which Boston will lead the world in celebrating humanity’s noblest dreams and aspirations.
“But none of this will come our way without the Games. There is no scenario in which this kind of infrastructure investment, this level of job creation, or this degree of revenue generation otherwise occurs on a similar timetable.”
Boston 2024 will be facing a binding referendum scheduled for November 2016. If the bid is forced to disband in the event of a negative outcome, the U.S. will not be able to nominate another city.
The USOC leadership will be meeting Tuesday in San Francisco to review Boston 2024 2.0. They’ll have until the September 15th nomination deadline to officially endorse Boston, or pursue another plan moving forward.
Currently Rome, Hamburg and Paris are in the race for 2024 while Budapest is waiting for expected government approval and Baku is considering its options following a successful hosting of the European Games.
A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.