Release of additional bid info feeds Olympics debate

The initial bid submitted to the U.S. Olympic Committee referred to a need for an "additional $471M in revenues"

This architect's rendering released Monday, June 29, 2015, by the Boston 2024 planning committee shows an athletes' village that is proposed to be built in Boston if the city is awarded the Summer Olympic games in 2024. The Boston group trying to land the Olympics released the most detailed look yet at its bid for the Summer Games, unveiling a $4.6 billion plan it says would create jobs and housing, expand the tax base and leave behind an improved city with a $210 million surplus. (Elkus Manfredi Architects for Boston 2024 via AP)

BOSTON (State House News Service) – When it released a redacted version of its bid documents months ago, the private organization working to bring the 2024 Summer Olympic Games to Boston removed sections that detailed the opposition to its bid, information related to a potential forced referendum process, and charts that detailed its financial projections.

On Friday, after a week that saw the Boston City Council debate subpoenaing the original bid document and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh calling for its release, Boston 2024 released the full version of its “Bid 1.0,” which was submitted to the U.S. Olympic Committee in December.

Redactions and edits had appeared throughout the previously released documents, removing detailed financial information, much of which could now be moot given that Olympics proponents have advanced a new version of the bid.

The initial bid submitted to the U.S. Olympic Committee referred to a need for an “additional $471M in revenues,” a figure that was excised from the version later released to the public.

The initial description of the “financially responsible” plans for creation of a temporary 60,000-seat Olympic Stadium, said it would be the catalyst for 7 million square feet of retail, hotel, residential and office space, and said the stadium would be replaced “with middle income housing.”

The version subsequently released to the public omitted the square footage and said the stadium would be replaced by “a mix of uses.” More recent renderings of the long-term plans for the stadium development, at what is now Widett Circle, show a park on the footprint of the stadium.

“The preliminary bid book was intended to serve as a ‘proof of concept’ – a general demonstration that Boston can, in fact, serve as host city,” Boston 2024 Chairman Steve Pagliuca said in a statement. “While it served that purpose well, it was not meant to be a final or operable plan. With extensive community input, we released an updated plan on June 29 for hosting the Games, and, with the benefit of continued community engagement, we’re confident our bid will continue to evolve and improve.”

Opponents of the Olympic bid said Friday that Boston 2024 has not earned the public’s trust and intentionally concealed information when it make the bid documents public earlier this year.

“The release of Boston 2024’s unredacted bid documents confirm that the boosters have been saying one thing behind closed doors, and an entirely different thing to Massachusetts taxypayers (sic),” No Boston Olympics said in a statement. “The redactions made in January show that the documents were whitewashed to remove any mention of existing opposition to the bid, and to conceal budget estimates that indicated the Games may operate at a deficit.”

In the complete version of the initial bid package, Boston 2024 described its opposition as “four local activists” who formed a group that, “no elected official has publicly endorsed…they have not received significant financial backing and their efforts have been limited to social media.”

“We’ve been characterized as a David and Goliath situation from the beginning, but arguably we’ve made some impact in this debate,” No Boston Olympics co-chair Kelley Gossett said. “We are committed to continuing our effort while highlighting the risks associated with Boston 2024’s bid.”

Boston 2024 also told the USOC that its own polling data indicated that opponents to the games were in the minority, pointing to a September 2014 poll of Boston residents that showed 60 percent support for the bid.

“Bidding for and hosting the Games in the Boston area are generally popular ideas. Support is consistent across the Commonwealth, and over the past seven months, we have seen this support grow steadily as residents begin to learn more about a potential Olympics in the Boston area,” the group wrote in a section of the report that had already been made public.

The January release of bid documents also omitted a page concerning the possibility that the group could be forced into a referendum by opponents to the bid.

In the material provided to the USOC but not made public until Friday, Boston 2024 detailed the steps a group would have to take in order to bring the Olympic bid to a ballot question.

Earlier this week, Citizens for a Say Chairman Evan Falchuk, and Tank Taxes for Olympics co-chairs Marty Lamb, Steve Aylward and Rep. Shaunna O’Connell began that process by filing initiative petition language with the attorney general’s office with the goal of placing a binding question on the November 2016 ballot. The proposed question would bar the use of public funds for the Olympics.

“Although technically possible to have a ballot initiative in 2016, given the onerous process, any initiative petition advanced by opponents to Boston 2024 would likely not appear on the ballot before November 2018,” Olympic boosters wrote in the redacted section of the proposal.

Boston 2024 also noted that Olympic supporters would have “multiple opportunities to object and intervene throughout the process at every step.” They wrote opponents to an initiative petition could review referendum signatures for “proper certification” and “may also pursue court challenges.”

“Boston 2024 is afraid of a ballot question, and they’ve outlined a detailed plan to fight back against any effort to have one,” Falchuck said in a statement Friday.

Even if such a petition were to prevail, Olympic supporters “could seek to have the legislature amend or repeal the petition’s decree through new legislation,” Boston 2024 wrote.

The topic of potential legislation was not limited to a hypothetical ballot question in the Boston Olympic bid.

In the version of the bid that was submitted to the USOC, Boston 2024 said it “anticipates proposal of comprehensive Olympic legislation to facilitate venues and transportation in a unified manner.”

In the version released publicly months ago, the group said it “could envision” such a proposal.

Perhaps knowing that it would be in need of special legislation at some point, Boston 2024, in a portion of the bid that was released to the public earlier this year, wrote, “Support from current Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth), Senate Majority Leader Stanley Rosenberg (D-Amherst), who will become Senate President in January, Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) and members of the Boston Legislative Delegation represents important bipartisan leadership on Beacon Hill that will strengthen our plan to engage legislators across the Commonwealth in the coming months.”

Copyright 2015 State House News Service

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