The Olympics and Boston

Over the past 20 years or so, whenever the topic arose–or something close enough to the topic for me to connect the two–I’ve asserted that tribal infighting, lack of vision, and parochialism would prevent Boston ever from hosting the Olympic Games. Now my prediction is being tested. Boston 2024 is barraged with criticism, observers are calling for the IOC to reject Boston’s candidacy, and Boston’s pretensions at being a world-class city are met with eye-rolling. Shirley Leung’s Globe piece today nails the dilemma.

Boston 2024’s problem? It’s not [John Fish], it’s us . . . At stake is nothing less than Boston’s reputation. So far the world knows we’re great at taking people down, making sure nobody gets too big. Instead we should be showing how a city that pulled off the Democratic National Convention is now emerging as a life sciences capital and undergoing a wholesale makeover of its skyline.

A successful 2024 Olympics should establish Boston’s bona fides as a world city of the 21st century. The Games could provide the motivation to fix the T, improve bridges, roads, and traffic circulation, update aging utility and telecommunications infrastructure, rehabilitate parks and public venues, create jobs, and invite investment. Making all of that happen would not be easy, and of course there are risks it goes off the rails. But does anyone see such necessary improvements happening within the next decade without a huge spur like the Olympic Games? Will Boston have a plausible claim to world-class status if a critical mass of such improvements does not occur?

I understand glass half-empty thinking. That’s how I’m wired. But even I see that everyone needs to get behind Boston 2024.

Half-empty glass