Boston 2024 Support Continues To Fall With Time Running Out

Boston is the USOC nomination for 2024 Olympic Games bid
Boston is the USOC nomination for 2024 Olympic Games bid

A new poll by WBUR in Boston has revealed significant doubt across the state about its 2024 Olympic bid.  Of those polled, only 39 percent say they support the bid while 49 percent oppose the idea of a Boston 2024 Olympic Games.  The numbers are marginally worse than results from April that showed 40 percent were in favour but 50 percent opposed.

The poor results can be partly attributed to the release of the bid book last month that was used to win the approval of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) in the domestic campaign against Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington.  The book revealed that the bid told the USOC it planned to leverage public funds to organize the Games despite the bid committee’s more recent claims that the Games would be privately funded.

The poll also revealed that constituents in Massachusetts are more likely to support a bid if venues were spread across the state.  In that case 51 percent would be in favour of the Games while 37 percent would oppose.  Still, while enough to win a referendum, this level of support wouldn’t likely win many votes from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) members in an election against Rome, Hamburg and possibly Paris and Budapest.

According to the pollster MassINC, these results are based on a survey of 502 registered voters in Massachusetts from June 4-6, 2015 and is accurate to plus or minus 4.4 percent.

Only three months remain before the USOC needs to confirm to the IOC that Boston is America’s candidate.  National Olympic Committees have until September 15 to officially put forth their nominated city – or be prepared to wait and bid for the 2028 Games instead.

United States IOC member Angela Ruggiero said last month that there was no guarantee that Boston would be the final choice yet other USOC spokespeople, including Chief Scott Blackmun have maintained that the organization stands behind Boston 100 percent.

Rumours have floated that Los Angeles, already a two-time Olympic host, is ready to stand in if Boston is rejected.

Boston 2024 Olympic Boulevard Depiction (Source: Boston 2024)
Boston 2024 Olympic Boulevard Depiction (Source: Boston 2024)

Three choices remain for the USOC.  One, they can stick with Boston and risk the possible major setback of pulling out if the referendum is lost, or worse – get soundly defeated in the election to be held in Lima, Peru in 2017.  Two, pull Boston and ramp up Los Angeles and hope that goodwill the West Coast bid offers can nullify the embarrassing last-minute flip-flop.  Or three, cancel plans for 2024 altogether, regroup, and try again for 2028.

A fourth less likely option would be to drop 2024 and bid for the 2026 Winter Games instead – cities such as Denver, Reno-Tahoe and Salt Lake City have expressed interest in the opportunity.  But it has been abundantly clear in recent years that the USOC is after the bigger, more prestigious Summer Games prize and if a Winter Games were won, any chance at the Summer edition would be pushed back years or decades.

But what’s clear is this.  A bid with these levels of support will not last, and cannot win.

Tokyo 2020 started its bid campaign with public support in the 50 percent range and was almost written off before an intensive 18-month public relations push raised that number to 70 percent, and it won the bid.  But that wasn’t 39 percent and it was before the Sochi 2014 Games gave bidding a bad reputation.  London won its 2012 bid with 68 percent support and Rio 2016 had 85 percent.

In the current campaign to host the 2022 Winter Games, three cities including Stockholm, Krakow and Oslo entered the race with questionable support – and all dropped out within months.

The clock is running out on U.S. chances of winning the 2024 bid and decisions need to be made soon.

A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of 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.

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