Boston's Olympic win a gold medal that shouldn't be coveted
By JON ALBA
College Contributor Network
The Olympic Games stand as the pedestal for athletic and global dominance, for better or for worse. The glorification of a medal win. The gilded seal of beauty and power that the host city and nation possess for just a couple of short weeks. The bombastic horns of triumph our ears have become accustomed to biannually signal the readiness of the world stage, with all eyes turned towards it.
Last week, the city of Boston, one with history tracing to America's roots, won the country's bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics. Should it be chosen as the host city, it would be the first summer games held in the U.S. since 1996. Back then, Atlanta held the "honor" of reconfiguring its walls to play host (Turner Field will forever be a lasting memory of those games, until its demolition less than 20 years after it held them).
You have probably read a dozen pieces by now telling you why the Olympics in Boston would be a bad idea. Here's lucky No. 13.
The premise of Boston 2024 is laughable: Olympic games entirely privately financed and supported by donations. The estimated cost of the games sits around $4.5 billion, as of now, so surely a totally static number that large being funded privately is reassuring to the citizens of the state, no?
Well first, let's get rid of that static notion. London reached a similar estimate for the 2012 Olympics, only to see that number soar by more than $10 billion. The Athens Olympics in 2004 were supposed to reignite the world's passion for the competition by returning them to their birthplace, but instead left the host nation with an underestimated $14.2 billion price tag contributing to its economic downfall.
So when the costs inevitably soar for the Boston Olympics, surely all the fat will be privately funded.
This is what officials within the Boston 2024 bid group have to say regarding the distribution of money:
"Public investment will be confined to roadway, transportation and infrastructure improvements, most of which are already planned and are needed with or without the Olympics. The federal government will pay security costs, as it does for all U.S. Games."
Well look at that. After years of clamoring for improvements to roads and train systems, it only took the prospect of having the Olympics to grant Bostonians their wish. But be careful what you wish for. The city says many of those improvement have been planned, which correlates to a $13 billion bond bill signed by former state governor Deval Patrick. While the bill didn't exactly put forth how much money could go into each individual project, it goes hand-in-hand with a proposal to not acquire additional public funding for the projects through tax raises.
The inevitable congestion on the roads and stations, especially as the games would be hosted in suburbs and outside venues like Gillette Stadium, need not be mentioned. And the necessary improvements to make these upgrades possible will come out of the every day citizen's pocket. But hey, at least these Olympics won't be publicly funded.
Boston's bid also includes the necessity for a temporary, 60,000+ seat stadium in Widett Circle, an industrial area of South Boston. The New Boston Food Market is made up of more than 20 businesses housed in the circle. The market is a critical piece to the city's culinary infrastructure, and is surrounded by neighborhoods that would ultimately be affected as well by the games.
The area has been a topic of conversation over the past several years. Proposals for a recycling center, a new transportation transfer station, and most recently, Robert Kraft's 28,000-seat stadium for Major League Soccer's New England Revolution have created buzz leaving the circle's future up in doubt. But perhaps the most irresponsible threat to the area would be the temporary stadium.
In order to have appeal, the concept of a temporary stadium must be sold by the International Olympic Committee. And it tries to do just that, by allowing revenue collected from the festivities (ticket sales, broadcasting fees and rights, etc.) to be funneled into the construction of temporary facilities. This saves the hassle of having to go to the public or private sector for funding requests, of course, and would leave the city with no debt going forward in attempting to convert or downsize a venue.
But is destroying a critical portion of a city's industry worth it for a stadium that will come down before returning traffic on the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut will have cleared up? Arguments could be made for the other avenues mentioned prior, even to a lesser degree Kraft's permanent structure, but what would be the greater impact made? Would the demolition of crucial businesses make the city of Boston any better than Rio de Janeiro's clearing favelas and other forms of housing in order to construct for its own games?
Fear not, as the stadium is not the only temporary solution the city has devised. The near-17,000 students alongside faculty of UMass Boston will be treated to the conversion of their campus into an Olympic Village, which will surely be a seamless process and of no disturbance for any entities involved. Those who pay upwards of $30,000 or more to attend may need to spend an extra few dollars on bottles of Advil as well.
And don't worry. UMass Boston wouldn't be the only school to help out with the bid. Start mending the scars from those in-state school rivalries, Massachusetts.
Of course, there is also the security concerns, as would be the case in any major American city. And as Atlanta proved, anyone is susceptible to a threat.
While the Boston police force ultimately successfully and admirably did its job in closing the situation of the 2013 Boston Marathon, is the fact the city and nearby towns went into an unprecedented lockdown easily forgettable? That's not a knock on the capability of armed forces, but rather, imagine the difficulties in an immensely populated city being forced to shut down in the event of a disaster while the world's eyes are watching.
Past host countries have made way for security measures to be taken to ensure safety at all costs, often times imposing on human rights. At what point does the need to feel safe (which is 100 percent warranted, for the record) cross the line of reason? With Olympics in a city like Boston, that question would need to be raised as well.
As displayed by the punctuation in this piece, Boston 2024 leaves more questions than answers. A city's infrastructure hangs at the whim of a committee that desires to promote athleticism and prowess at great expenses. The Olympics are often spectacular and inspiring, and many believe Boston can make them happen in an efficient way never seen before.
But take it from Greece, China, Brazil and so many others. It's just not worth it.
Jon Alba is a senior at Quinnipiac University. There he serves as general manager of the school's television station, Q30 Television. Follow him on Twitter: @JonAlbaSFC