A World Class Competition
While all eyes recently have been trained on Russia and the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympic Games, there is another competition beginning to take place right here in the United States. Earlier this year, the United States Olympic Committee sent out a letter to 35 cities throughout the country inviting them to submit proposals to bid for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. Some of the cities which have responded were; Los Angeles, San Diego, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco and Boston. Each one of these cities would bring the Olympic movement a unique backdrop to an Olympic Games. Los Angeles, which has hosted the Games twice before would become (if selected) only the second city, next to London, to host a games for a third time. It would bring with it a spectacular Hollywood ambiance and Hollywood’s best and brightest would be showcased. Dallas would have a down home, country feel. A “heart of America” feel. Philadelphia could play upon the Spirit of ’76, while San Francisco could draw upon its Gold Rush history and its unique Northern California vibe. Finally, there is Boston. A Boston Olympic Bid could showcase a true history of America. From the Pilgrims landing at Provincetown and then Plymouth Rock to the Battles of Lexington and Concord and the start of the American Revolution, Boston has a rich history with which to frame its bid to host the Olympic Games.
Bidding and winning the right to host an Olympic Games is probably one of the biggest Public Relations competitions in the world. The United States bid and failed to win the Games in 2012 (with a bid from New York City) and again in 2016 (with a bid from Chicago). Although both bids were technically superior, the cities lost the PR battle. Neither city could adequately persuade the voting members of the IOC why the United States should again play host to largest sports and cultural festival in the world. Their stories were not compelling. The bid process for the 2024 Games will begin in earnest in 2015, with the vote to be held in 2017. The United States Olympic Committee could decide later this year which cities, if any, it will choose to further explore and move forward on a bid. Right now is a crucial time for Boston. It must do two things: First, it must convince the USOC that the United States should bid for another Olympic Games. To do that, they city’s bid committee must show, with proof, why the IOC would vote for a U.S. city. Second, the city of Boston must present a compelling and technically superior bid.
Taking a Chance on History
Taking a look at previous Olympic Host cities, there a couple of conclusions one can draw: First, the IOC is not afraid of bringing the Olympics to new territories or making risky decisions. Athens was a sentimental favorite in 1996 and again in 2004, when it won. Yet, there were serious concerns throughout the bid process that the city would be ready to host. It almost wasn’t. Venues were still being prepared as the Opening Ceremony was taking place. Beijing was awarded the 2008 Olympic Games, despite its deplorable human rights record, but the IOC wanted to send the Games to the most populous nation in the world. The Games were a spectacular achievement for what a country can do with “unlimited” resources. But again, it was a risk. Finally, the 2016 Games will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is the first time the Olympics will travel to South America, and there are questions about whether the city will be ready come July 2016.
Clearly, the IOC does not have a problem sending the Games to new frontiers, despite the possibility of problems. What won those cities their right to host an Olympic Games was not the technical superiority of their bids (except maybe Beijing), but it was the compelling story the host city and nation told. It was the passion of the cities bids which swayed the voting members of the IOC. For Athens, it was sentiment and the history of the Olympic movement returning to its birthplace for the first time since 1896. For Rio, it was the appeal of going to new places and exposing an entire continent to the Olympic Movement. For Beijing, it was the land of billion faces. Bringing a brand to an untapped nation which could help grow the Olympic Games in future generations. All of these things must be taken into account in order for Boston, or any other American city to win the 2024 Olympic Games.
The path for Boston to win the 2024 Olympic Games is a long one. After all, the games are still eleven years away and the vote is four years away. But, there are many hurdles it must face, prior. Aside from the national competition, the field of 2024 candidate cities could include the following: Rome, Doha, Paris, Toronto, Berlin, and Durbin, South Africa. That list will grow and shrink over the next few years, but by the fall of 2015 it will be finalized. Each one of those cities will have a compelling reason why it wants to host the Olympics. Toronto, could be seen as the America alternate. Canada hosted one of the best Winter Olympics in 2010 in Vancouver and the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary were the most successful up to that point in history. Toronto is hosting the 2015 Pan Am Games, which is widely seen as a dress rehearsal for an Olympic Bid. Plus, a successful Toronto Games would wipe away the memory of what was seen as the failed Montreal Games of 1976.
Paris could be a sentimental favorite as it would mark the 100th anniversary of the 1924 Summer Olympics, which, at that time were considered the best. Plus, France has not hosted an Olympic Games since Albertville hosted the 1992 Winter Olympics. It failed to win the 2012 Games because of a perceived “lack of passion” and “arrogance.” Putting together a passionate and technically exceptional bid could help the city to win and thus removing the failed 2012 bid from memory. Paris is also the birthplace of Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Movement. To hold the Games in the birthplace of its founder again, would be seen as an homage to history and a look forward to the future.
Berlin played host to the 1936 Olympics, “Hitler’s Games.” Also, the country hosted the Munich Games of 1972, which will always be remembered for the terrorist attack which left eleven Israeli athletes dead. Hosting again could wipe the slate clean. Show the world a unified Germany and Berlin for the first time since the Iron Curtain came down in 1989 and bring the Games back to a country rich in history and technological advancement. A successful Olympic Bid and Games would help to wipe away the memories of Hitler and Munich and show the world how far Germany has come since those dark days.
The City of Rome has already thrown its hat in the ring for 2024. After a disappointing second place showing for the 2004 Olympics, this would be the chance for Rome to shine. With a backdrop of the Colosseum and The Vatican, Rome would have picturesque views and a city and country passionate about its sports. Rome played host to the 1964 Olympic Games, which was believed to be the best of a generation. The 1964 Games is where a young Cacious Clay burst onto the boxing scene, before becoming Mohammed Ali. With its rich history, dating back thousands of years and a sport hungry populace, Rome could be the city to beat in a 2024 match up.
However, the IOC likes to have alternatives and with the exception of Toronto, all of those front-runners are European cities. Durban, South Africa and Doha, Qatar and a possible bid from Brisbane, Australia would give the IOC voting members an alternative to Europe or the America’s. The Sydney Olympic Games of 2000 were the best Olympics until London, 2012. Memories of those Games could sway the voting to Brisbane’s favor. It would not be seen as much of a risky decision as say Durban or Doha. But those two cities offer something no other bidding city in the world does… a new frontier. An Olympic Games in Doha or Durban would be a first for the mid-east and Africa. All of these cities will present bids which will be top notch and offer persuasive stories. For the United States and Boston to win, it must offer something no other bid can.
The Case for Boston
The first thing that Boston can offer, is a prime time network audience sure to beat previous records. It is on the east coast of the United States, part of the northeast megalopolis and would bring in untold amounts of money to the International Olympic Committee. America last hosted an Olympic Games back in 2002 when Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Games. The last Summer Olympics were held in Atlanta, GA. The Atlanta Games left a sour taste in the mouth of the IOC. There was excessive marketing and everything seemed to be for sale. The Atlanta Olympics will also be remembered for the Olympic Park bombing, which killed two. Atlanta became the poster child for Olympic excess and International Olympic Committee was not happy with how the games turned out. The Salt Lake Olympics will be remembered for the vote-buying scandal which won the city the right to host the Games. Although things were turned around and the city put on a great competition, as shown by the failed bids by NYC and Chicago, the IOC has been reticent to return the Olympics to America. First, Boston must have an open bid process. It must show the IOC and the USOC every step it takes. It cannot make the same mistakes of Atlanta and Salt Lake City. And, unlike its other competitors from around the world, there will not be a blank check. Boston has to have a bid which is fiscally responsible, using sites which are already built, leaving a legacy for the people of Boston and Massachusetts and not having any white elephants.
That being said, the city has much to offer. There are tens of thousands of hotel rooms in the city itself and tens of thousands more with in a short driving distance. It has a subway and commuter rail system and a bus system second only to NYC. There are parks and green spaces in the city which cannot compete with any other city in the nation. Boston is home to three of the most successful professional sports franchises in history and its fans are some of the most devoted. That devotion of Boston fans will be necessary to parley a bid into reality. Even though other U.S. contenders have water access; LA, San Francisco, and Philadelphia, other international contenders do not, except Toronto and Brisbane. Having access to the water being a city right on the water, is extremely important. It means that yachting competitions do not have to take place hundreds of miles away. Imagine a yachting competition on Cape Cod or in Salem, MA. Baseball and softball competition at Fenway Park. Soccer could take place at Harvard Stadium, Boston College Stadium with the Gold Medal Match at Gillette stadium, home of the Patriots. Gymnastics could be held at the Fleet Center. Harvard, MIT, and Northeastern University would all offer great competition venues. The centerpiece of the Olympic Games in Boston would be a Boston Olympic Stadium, located on the banks of the Charles River.
All of these venues, plus the passion which New Englander’s have for sport and culture have the potential to make a Boston 2024 Olympic Games the best ever in Olympic History. The benefits of a successful bid and staging of the Games could be worth tens of billions of dollars, not to mention thousands of jobs, hundreds of thousands of new tourists, a much improved infrastructure, and a legacy of excellence to leave to our children and their children.