BOSTON — Less than 15 hours after announcing Boston as the U.S. applicant city to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, United States Olympic Committee board members appeared there Friday morning with Mayor Martin J. Walsh, freshly inaugurated Governor Charlie Baker and members of the Boston 2024 bid committee to invite the world’s sporting community to the city.
“The world sends its youth to Boston to be educated, the world sends its sick to Boston to be healed, the world sends its great minds to Boston to innovate and the world sends businesses from all over to invest,” said Boston 2024 chairman John Fish. “Why don’t we send the world’s greatest athletes to compete in Boston?”
The USOC picked Boston from a pool of finalists that included Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. USOC Chairman Larry Probst called the decision the most “challenging, difficult and agonizing” that the USOC board members have had to make, but said they believe the bid can be the one to bring the summer Games back to the United States for the first time since 1996.
“The concept plan they presented to us was very compelling,” Probst said. “It’s in harmony with the long-term vision of the city of Boston and is athlete-centric, cost effective and we believe this is a team we can continue to work with in partnership. So this journey has just begun. The hard work starts now.”
Each city pitched the USOC board on Dec. 16 in Redwood City, California, at which point the USOC board officially announced it would bid for the 2024 Games. The decision of which city came Thursday evening after a USOC board meeting at the Denver airport.
Mayor Walsh, who was part of the delegation that traveled to Redwood City, said he didn’t stray far from his phone on Thursday evening.
“Yesterday I knew the call was coming at some point, I just didn’t know what it was,” he said. “Then I saw the Colorado number on my phone and I knew instantly, I knew what we achieved; what we thought was impossible was reality.”
Boston’s formal application isn’t due until September, and the International Olympic Committee’s executive board will determine finalists in the spring of 2016. The full IOC will vote on the host city in September 2017.
So far only Rome — host of the 1960 Games — has joined Boston in officially announcing a bid, but the list of potential bid cities is long. Among those rumored to join the race is Paris, host of the 1924 Games. Germany is expected to pick either Berlin (the 1936 host) or Hamburg, while other bids could come from Melbourne, Australia (the 1956 host); Istanbul, Turkey; a South African city, or a host of others.
After skyrocketing prices for previous Games, the IOC is encouraging temporary facilities to save costs, something Boston plans to do with a 60,000-seat Olympic Stadium in South Boston, not far from where officials addressed the media on Friday morning at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. Fish called the Olympic Stadium “simple” and said it would not feature luxury boxes.
“When we are done with the stadium, they take the stadium down and move it on to other venues,” Fish said.
Another large emphasis on keeping costs down has been placed on existing venues, something Boston 2024 highlighted by billing the bid as “the walkable Games.” Fish said 28 of the 33 venues would be within a 10-kilometer radius, and that 70 to 75 percent of all of the venues would be located on university campuses. Fish said three or four universities have already offered to build facilities that they would then call their own after the Games.
“We have over 100 universities in the Boston area,” Fish said. “There is no other state or city in America that has that, and all of those universities have the majority of the facilities that we need, and if they don’t have those facilities or those facilitates up to date they are planning today for the future to make those improvements.”
Walsh said the Boston would host nine public meetings in the neighborhoods that would host events, starting on Jan. 27 at Suffolk University Law School in downtown Boston. The rest of the meetings will run from February to September.
“From Day 1 I promised the community they would be intimately involved in our journey for the Olympics and I always stand by my word,” Walsh said.
Walsh also said no public funding would be used on venues but could be used on infrastructure. He said Boston was the only bid city in the United States to insist on an insurance policy that could be worth up to $25 million.
Chicago was a finalist to host the 2016 Games and New York City the 2012 Games, but those were awarded to Rio de Janeiro and London, respectively. The United States last hosted the summer Games in 1996 in Atlanta and the Winter Games in 2002 in Salt Lake City. The United States also hosted the 1904 Games in St. Louis and the 1932 and ’84 Games in Los Angeles.
By the time 2024 rolls around, it will have been 22 years since the Games were held on U.S. soil.
Thursday’s announcement also came on the same day that Governor Baker was sworn into office. The previous night Baker’s inaugural ball was also held at the same location as Friday’s press conference.
“I wish I would have slept here it would have been a much smarter move,” Baker joked before adding, “Nobody should be surprised Boston was selected. While I’m certainly honored as the governor of Massachusetts that the USOC chose Boston amongst a very intense and significant competition, I said yesterday in my inaugural address that we are a global leader in a wide number of categories.
“This is a great city and a great state and we should never forget that.”