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The proposed Boston Olympics will include Cambridge. Here's what Boston 2024 includes for Cambridge venues.
Boston 2024, the private group organizing to bring the Olympics to the Boston metropolitan area in 2024, released many of its bid documents last week, bowing to public pressure to make their effort more transparent. With these documents, it's possible to assess what part Cambridge will play.
Thematically, Cambridge serves as a counterpoint to Boston's historical depth. Olympic organizers note that one can see America's past in Boston historical sites and its future in Cambridge's innovation economy. Cambridge hotels will also serve Olympic visitors, with Cambridge's walkability trumpeted as giving access to MBTA stations. But the real impact lies elsewhere.
Magazine Beach has been chosen as the site for aquatic events and the triathlon. A 2500 seat temporary stadium will be constructed, along with the support infrastructure necessary, for example, a scoreboard and media areas. Construction of the venue would start in March 2024, a test event would be held, follow by the Olympics then the Paralympics. No date is proposed by which Magazine Beach would be returned to community use.
The triathlon course would leave Magazine Beach, head down Memorial Drive to Mass Ave, up Mass Ave towards Harvard Square, then loop back to its starting point.
The bid documents include a letter from the Division of Conservation Resources, which owns and operates Magazine Beach, stating that Boston 2024 may use Magazine Beach for the Olympics.
Archery events would be held at MIT. While the bid text says that preliminary events would be held at MIT's Briggs Field, the documents focus on the use of MIT's Killian Court, pictured above, for the finals.
Harvard University's athletic facilities, located just across the river from Harvard Square, will be used for many events, with Red Line access through Harvard Square touted as a major advantage.
Local Regulatory and Permitting Oversight
Boston 2024 states repeatedly that it expects no regulatory hurdles as it will pursue omnibus legislation at the state level to allow its construction and events to happen. Boston 2024 also states that it has had preliminary conversations with Cambridge officials regarding the use of Magazine Beach. Boston 2024 assertions about other conversations they claim to have had have turned out to be false.
Boston 2024 points to the Democratic National Convention held in Boston as a model for the security structures needed to protect an Olympics. In that model, the Secret Service provides security for core venues and local police provide security for venues and events in their communities. The assumption of the organizers is that the Federal government will pay for much of these costs, belying their assertion that no public funds will be used to support the actual event. Those funds would need to be appropriated by Congress. The organizers don't say whether they'd seek funding to support the needs of local law enforcement.
In general, the security cordons displayed on venue maps seem quite small. It's hard to believe that archery will occur in Killian Court while traffic moves unimpeded on Memorial Drive. Similarly, one has to expect closures of both Mass Ave and Memorial Drive, as well as the neighboring few blocks, for running and bicycling. Crowd control for the Harvard athletic venues and the attendant security will also spill over into Cambridge.
The bid documents assert that Cambridge, among other communities, has "stepped up to the plate" with promises of "strong collaboration."
Credibility Problems and Budgetary Problems
Boston 2024 asserts that they had the support of Columbia Point landowners whose land would be used to create the Olympic Village. As reported by the Dorchester Reporter, not only hadn't Boston 2024 secured that support, they had not even talked to the landowners. Beyond that, the Dorchester Reporter discovered that two transportation projects required for the Olympics, improving Kosciuszko Circle and the nearby JFK UMass MBTA station, are not included in state funding plans. Boston 2024 has previously said that all the transportation improvements are part of a bond measure passed by the state legislature.
Even before these issues surfaced, Smith College's Andrew Zimbalist, an expert on Olympic economics, analyzed Boston 2024's budget for the Boston Globe. The budget fails to include the cost of acquiring land, asserts that some as yet unspecific "public/private partnership" will share the costs of building venues and the media center, and counts generous contributions from Bostonians to complete the funding. Zimbalist notes that, since 1976, Olympic games have averaged cost overruns of 252%.
Council Considers Further Action on the Olympics
The Cambridge City Council will consider a Policy Order that will request that the City Manager disclose any agreements signed regarding the Olympics and that any future agreement be brought to the Council for discussion. If adopted, the order would place the Council on the record as opposing non-disparagement clauses such as the one that requires Boston city officials to say only positive things about Boston 2024's bid.
All the Olympic documents involving Cambridge can be found here.
Disclaimer: The author drafted an early version of the Policy Order mentioned in the last paragraph.
This work by Saul Tannenbaum is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.