By Justin A. Rice | Jan. 22, 2015, 2:53 p.m. (ET)
Widett Circle would be transformed to include the Olympic Stadium and would be called Midtown.


BOSTON — As the head of Boston’s biggest construction company, John Fish is no stranger to community outreach.

“I’m very, very sensitive that when you go forward and break ground in a building, you are pouring something in concrete and structural steel with a big skin that’s going to be there for 40 or 50 or 60 years,” the chairman and CEO of Suffolk Construction said in an interview.

Now Fish, the chairman of Beantown’s private Olympic organizing committee — Boston 2024 — is also taking the long view in engaging and soliciting feedback from Bostonians on the city’s bid to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“I don’t think it will benefit many people in this room, but what it will benefit is your children and your grandchildren,” Fish told approximately 500 people attending Boston 2024’s first community meeting on Wednesday night. “This gives us really for the first time a chance to come together as a community and think about that distant future.

“And if we plant the seeds of prosperity today and going forward, that vision will be able to be materialized.”

The two-hour meeting at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center unveiled in-depth details of the bid to the public for the first time. It also launched a series of monthly meetings hosted by Boston 2024 that are separate from nine city-run meetings that will be hosted in the neighborhoods projected to house venues.

Wednesday’s presentation was similar to the one Boston 2024 pitched the United States Olympic Committee board on Dec. 16 in Redwood City, California. On Jan. 8, the USOC chose Boston over Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., as the 2024 bid city. Boston’s formal application to the International Olympic Committee is due in September. The IOC executive board will pick finalists in the spring of 2016 before the full IOC will choose the host city in September 2017.


Boston 2024 officials hold the first community meeting to discuss the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic bid at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in Boston on Jan. 22, 2015. 

Boston’s plan features a “Waterfront Cluster” anchored by a temporary 60,000-seat Olympic Stadium that would “reclaim” an 80-acre industrial parcel. A “University Cluster” mostly consists of existing facilities on campuses such as Harvard, Boston University and MIT. Twenty-eight of the 33 venues would be within a six-mile radius, and 26 competition and non-competition facilities would be within a 10-minute walk of public transit stations.

Boston 2024 officials, however, noted there could be potential for hosting preliminary competitions in renowned venues around the country such as Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field, Madison Square Garden and Soldier Field. The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, could also be in the mix.

“Always keep in mind everything we show tonight is really just proof of concept, and we know there will be much change in this plan,” said architect David Manfredi, co-chair of Boston 2024’s master planning committee.

Manfredi said the Boston Games would be the most “walkable” Games in the modern Olympic era, which began in 1896. After surveying every Olympic conceptual plan from 1980 to 2020, Boston 2024 found that the closest average distance between venues was 16.6 kilometers (10.3 miles) in Seoul in 1988.

The average distance between venues in Boston would be 5.3 kilometers, or 3.3 miles.

“Our plan is a plan that really is based on a notion of the city of Boston as an Olympic Park,” Manfredi said.

The Games would also provide 70,000 temporary jobs and could use more than 75,000 local volunteers.

The panel — which also included Paralympian and two-time Boston Marathon wheelchair champion Cheri Blauwet, prominent pastor the Rev. Jeffrey Brown and Ruben Sanca, who lives in Boston but ran for Cape Verde at the London 2012 Olympic Games — fielded prewritten questions from the audience.

Questions not addressed will be answered on Boston 2024’s website.

The questions that were answered covered topics such as traffic, cost overruns, transparency and security:

Traffic:

The 2024 Games would be held from mid-July to mid-August, a time Manfredi noted that colleges are not in session and many people are on vacation. He said transit projects already in the pipeline would help as well.

Cost overruns:

Boston 2024 President Dan O’Connell said broadcast revenue, corporate sponsorship, local sponsorship and ticket sales can cover the $4.7 billion operating budget for the Games, and public funds would not be used for the operation of the Games.

Transparency:

O’Connell noted that there were seven public hearings at the Massachusetts State House before the bid was submitted to the USOC. He said the USOC prohibited them from disclosing certain details of their plan until now. O’Connell apologized that there wasn’t “as much outreach as their should have been or there might have been, but you have our pledge going forward that this will be a fully transparent process as we put the actual bid together with the USOC.”

Security:

O’Connell said they are working with the MIT Media Lab on technological advancements to design venues with the least intrusive security measures. But Fish added, “If we are going to continue to live in a free world and democratic environment, we can’t be held hostage worrying about what people might do to us. Boston in my 54 years of living in this community has never backed down, and there’s no doubt in my mind it’s not are going to back down in the next 54 years.”

Justin A. Rice is a Boston-based freelance writer who covers sports and local news. He has been a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org since 2010 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.