“Walkable” games to cost $4.7B of privately-raised money, bidders say

Manfredi said the Boston games could be "the most walkable games in modern times"

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

BOSTON (State House News Source) – Showcasing drawings of a new Olympic Boulevard along the Fort Point Channel, Boston 2024 officials pitched reporters on a compact, privately funded Summer Games on Wednesday.

Boston 2024 President Dan O’Connell said the Olympics would have to live within a $4.7 billion budget, funded by broadcast revenues, corporate sponsorships and ticket sales, while the state could fund “infrastructure investments” and federal taxpayers would foot security costs.

While officials say changes could be made after public input, architect David Manfredi said the Boston games could be “the most walkable games in modern times,” with 28 of the 33 sports venues located within a 10 kilometer area.

Manfredi said compared to summer games stretching back to 1980, Boston’s plan has more venues within a 10-kilometer radius and the venues are closer together on average. He said Tokyo came closest to the number of venues within 10 kilometers for its 2020 plans, and Seoul, South Korea, had the next lowest average distance between venues when it hosted the games in 1988.

Speaking to reporters at the State House on Wednesday, House Speaker Robert DeLeo advocated a more spread out Olympics, saying, “I’d like to see the rest of the state share in some of the activities.”

Under Boston 2024’s plan, Manfredi said, handicapped parking would be planned around venues while in general visitors would be brought in by public transportation.

At a Wednesday briefing for the news media at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, officials gave a simulacrum of the presentation they made to the U.S. Olympic Committee and distributed copies of the bid submitted to the USOC with certain information removed. Unlike the presentation Boston officials made in Redwood City, Calif., Boston Mayor Marty Walsh was not on hand to discuss the bid at the briefing.

O’Connell said officials held back from release “specific financial items” on the estimated costs of procuring land or construction because they do not want to give away a bargaining advantage.

The bid that went to the USOC estimates:

  • workforce costs at $600 million
  • technology at $600 million
  • games services at $500 million
  • other costs at $500 million

O’Connell said he believes the federal government will cover security costs as it does for other major events, and the bid said security and transportation are not included in the cost estimate.

The potential for hosting the international sporting event in the Bay State has divided public opinion. A MassINC Polling Group survey found voters in the Boston region support hosting the games by a 51-33 margin. No Boston Olympics, a group mobilized against the idea, distributed talking points Wednesday that include support for a referendum and an “independent body of economists and experts” to weigh the proposal.

O’Connell dodged questions on a potential referendum, saying he would need to know the particulars, and did not say Olympics backers would drop the cause if voters rejected it in a referendum.

“We’d wait to see how that happened,” said O’Connell.

According to the bid, 18 of the venues would be existing facilities or would remain in place for post-games “legacy use.” If it wins the approval of the International Olympic Committee, Boston would also host the Paralympics. The IOC is scheduled to decide in 2017.

Manfredi said there would be two “clusters” in the southern coastal part of Boston and between Boston and Cambridge, where archery could be held on the lawn of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A velodrome would be constructed in Somerville, rowing would be held in Lowell, Gillette Stadium would host rugby and soccer, and officials are looking at spaces in the western part of the state to host mountain biking and slalom kayaking, Manfredi said. He said athletes from around the world would look for other areas around the state to acclimate themselves to the region and train before the games.

The temporary Olympic Stadium would be constructed in the area between Interstate 93 and Red Line train yards, replacing what O’Connell described as a “salt pile and a tow lot” with land primed for development after the stadium is removed. He said the temporary stadium would probably take a year to construct and said disassembling it would take less time. Suffolk Downs, the former horse track straddling East Boston and Revere, could be a potential alternative site of the stadium, he said.

The former secretary of economic development in former Gov. Deval Patrick’s Cabinet, O’Connell said no new state laws would be “required,” though officials would like to keep the potential for legislation “open,” and he said venue construction would be done with existing zoning ordinances.

“We’re not contemplating a legislative package at this time,” O’Connell said.

O’Connell claimed the games would create 70,000 jobs and boost the hospitality and construction industries. Plans call for the Olympic Village housing athletes to be built next to UMass Boston where Manfredi said it would provide athletes access to nearby athletic fields and where Olympic housing could also meet the needs of the school.

Some officials and activists have complained that the state’s transportation infrastructure needs improvement, and Boston 2024 officials have noted that lawmakers authorized spending billions on transportation projects that could also benefit the games.

O’Connell said an expansion of South Station would be “helpful,” and said construction of a better transition from train to bus at the JFK/UMass Red Line station would be “beneficial to the games.”

Cheri Blauwet, a Paralympics wheelchair medalist who participated in the presentation, said walkability would be important for athletes, spectators and security at the games.

Boston 2024 touted the city’s experience hosting the Boston Marathon, the Fourth of July celebrations and the 2004 Democratic National Convention in a summary of experience with large-event security. Manfredi said the city hosts 22 million visitors annually.

The Olympic backers proposed Friday, July 19, to Sunday, Aug. 4, 2024 as the time-period for the Olympics and Wednesday, Aug. 14, to Sunday, Aug. 25, 2024 for the Paralympics.

Harvard Stadium could host field hockey games, the Boston Celtics’ home at TD Banknorth Garden could have basketball, The Country Club in Brookline could provide links for Olympic golfers and horses could use Franklin Park for equestrian events, according to the bid.

In some cases the bid lists potential alternative sites, such as sailing in Buzzards Bay rather than Boston Harbor, a triathlon at Castle Island in South Boston instead of Magazine Beach in Cambridge, and water polo hosted by Tufts University rather than Harvard. The BCEC, which is set to expand, could be host to judo, wrestling, table tennis and rhythmic gymnastics, according to the chart.

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