Boston 2024 Support In Free-fall as Bid Claims “We’re Just Getting Started”

A new poll released Thursday reveals that Boston 2024 efforts to build support through public consultations and full transparency are not working as had been hoped.

Boston 2024 Olympic Bid Logo

Boston 2024 Olympic Bid Logo

Numbers released by WBUR/MassINC reveal that within Boston only 36 per cent support the bid, down from 51 per cent in January and 44 per cent in February.  In the poll of 504 registered voters with a margin of error of 4.9 per cent, 52 per cent opposed the bid and 13 per cent didn’t respond.

“We’re just getting started,” was part of the headline on a media release issued by the bid’s public relations firm that explained some of the many accomplishments the bid has made over the initial few weeks including the recruitment of 900 volunteers and the publishing of a favourable economic report that showed the benefits of the Games for the city.

“After one of our worst ever winters, we know that we need to be out across the city and the state over the forthcoming days, weeks and months  to build support and make the case that the 2024 Games would leave an extremely positive legacy for generations to come,” Boston 2024 CEO Rich Davey said.

“The more one-on-one conversations we have – discussing the benefits and addressing concerns – the more support will grow.

“That is why Boston 2024 has scheduled 20 public meetings in 20 weeks across Massachusetts in addition to the nine neighborhood meetings Mayor Walsh is hosting in Boston.”

Still, these far reaching excuses don’t explain why support is dropping and attempts at damage control have been ineffective thus far.

The bid campaign has barely begun – confirmations don’t need to be sent to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) until September 15 and the initial application file isn’t required until January 8, 2016.  Early next year the IOC will commission it’s own public support poll and publish the results along with a candidate short list in April or May of 2016.  But with a referendum possible within a year, this problem isn’t something that can be swept under the rug.

Looking back, the IOC’s first poll of support for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic bid showed 47 per cent supporting the bid, 23 per cent being opposed, and 30 per cent offering no opinion.  This was a real concern for Japan’s bid at the time, so the committee poured resources into an extensive domestic awareness program that one year later pushed support into the 70’s.  Tokyo won the bid.

More recently, a 2022 Olympic Winter Games bid from Oslo, Norway had 45 per cent public support prior to its official application, but those numbers plummeted to about 26 per cent one year later after the bid was accepted to a short list.  The bid subsequently lost government support and was forced to withdraw.

So for Boston it seems this could go either way.

When Tokyo was dealing with poor results, the bid committee made no excuses. Bid leaders admitted that immediate action had to be taken to improve results,

For Oslo, poor publicity surrounding Sochi’s Olympic Games related to high costs and human rights violations alienated many constituents.  This made the situation irrecoverable.

While there is no minimum public support percentage required by the IOC to qualify to bid, a number below 50 per cent will raise red flags on evaluation reports.

Hamburg and Rome have also entered the 2024 race with Boston.  Recently, 64 per cent across Hamburg supported the German bid.

Robert Livingstone

About Robert Livingstone

Robert Livingstone is a senior editor, award-winning journalist and author, covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. He is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians. Follow him @enotsgnivil