Baker: Olympics are an opportunity to promote region

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, DEC. 16, 2014…..Governor-elect Charlie Baker on Tuesday expressed enthusiasm about the possibility of the Olympics coming to Massachusetts as backers of a Boston bid for the 2024 summer games prepared to make their case in California.

“The big issue for me on the Olympic bid is if the (U.S. Olympic Committee) says yes, what they really do is they bless Massachusetts and Boston to make our case to the rest of the world,” Baker said. “And it’s this pretty unique opportunity to promote Massachusetts and Boston to the participating countries, I think there are 150 all in around the globe. But I think that’s a great opportunity to sell the region that gets way beyond just the Olympics.”

Opponents have argued the pursuit of the Olympics has occurred largely behind closed doors, questioned whether the games will be an economic boondoggle, and said resources would be diverted from education and transportation. Supporters say the Olympics would create jobs and claim tax dollars won’t be used to build venues or pay for operations.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh was in California on Tuesday with Boston 2024, the group pushing for the summer Olympics, for a meeting with the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC). Fellow mayors and supporters of summer Olympics in Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and San Francisco were also presenting their bids.

“We’re talking 2024 here,” Baker said while at the State House for meetings with other elected officials. “There’s a long way between here and there. And I can tell you that if Massachusetts and Boston are picked, it will be incumbent on me and the mayor of Boston and others to make sure that there is a very public process going forward, and there will be.”

Baker added that he is “still anxious” to see more details about the bid and he is “cognizant” that there have been discussions of the estimated cost of a Boston Olympic bid being lower than past Olympic games.

“I mean, we would be a pretty significant departure from the way people have done this lately,” Baker said, noting that the last summer and winter Olympics were between $40 billion and $50 billion “enterprises.”

Baker, who spoke with reporters after closed-door meetings with Secretary of State William Galvin and Auditor Suzanne Bump, said Boston’s bid process should remain privately funded.

“They have a committee, they’ve raised a bunch of money and I’m sure they’ll continue to do that,” Baker said. “I do believe that the message I’ve heard from all the people involved in this to date, is whatever we do with respect to the public piece, it ought to be around the kind of project activity that actually is sustainable over time and has value and meaning to the region that gets way beyond the end of the Olympics.”

On its website, Boston 2024 said public investment will be “confined to roadway, transportation and infrastructure improvements, most of which are already planned and are needed with or without the Olympics.”

Copyright 2014 State House News Service

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