The City That Said No

Boston will not host the 2024 Summer Olympics, which to a majority of the residents of the city is a good thing. The prospect of huge traffic jams, monumental security concerns and most importantly the real possibility that the taxpayers will be left holding the tax bag if the Games end up in the red.

Right from the start the captains of industry and finance who led the charge for the Olympics displayed a complete misunderstanding of how a democracy works and how to deal with grassroots organizers intent on stopping their grand visions. CEOs like John Fish and Steve Pagliuca are enormously successful corporate leaders but they come from a culture which is not driven by public opinion polls, open meetings and vocal opposition. And so they marched full speed ahead with their plan, which would have transformed the city of Boston, but with shaky numbers and plans that just seemed too good to be true.

Many Bostonians are now relieved that their crowded city will be free of all the commotion and the tax bill that comes with the Olympic Games. But for all the flaws in the 2024 plan what it did was present a dream of how the city would look like in nine years and the energy to move forward with huge improvements in transportation, housing, roads and bridges, and neighborhoods. No matter what the pols and the naysayers say about spending on vital needs rather than a three week international circus, it is likely that Boston will stumble along and make only minor dents in those areas of public life that cry out for major transformation.

Take away the vision and energy of Olympic 2024 (and a drop dead timeline) and Boston is left with its age old reputation as a city that has a history of saying “NO”. Sure there is a building boom afoot in the Hub City, but twenty story science and technology monuments and high end condos are not the same as a new subway system, new highways, new low-income housing, and new schools, and most importantly a can do attitude.

And so another city, perhaps Los Angeles, or the European entries – Paris, Rome, Hamburg or Budapest – will get the opportunity to go into debt and have huge stadiums sit idly for decades. But say what you will about the flawed dream of John Fish and Steve Pagliuca, at least they had a vision of a new Boston and the energy to make it happen. Now all Boston is left with is NO.

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