Boston is in the running to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. The Citizen spoke with Steve Poftak, the Executive Director of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, to learn more about Boston’s process so far and the situation as it stands. Mr. Poftak is a Boston resident who previously worked for the Commonwealth’s Executive Office for Administration and Finance.
We understand that Boston has been granted the right to bid for the opportunity to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. Who granted them this opportunity to compete against cities across the globe, and why do you think they chose Boston?
The USOC selected Boston. I think they bought into Boston’s approach of a more compact Olympics with a lot of venues being reused after the Games. Other cities had more expansive entries, but the USOC was apparently impressed by what Boston put forward.
When will the host city for 2024 be announced, and what will the International Olympic Committee be looking for in selecting a host city?
It will be announced in 2017. The IOC has publicly stated its desire for less costly, more sustainable Games, but we’ll see what proposal ends up as the actual host city.
Understanding that Boston hosts a large number of colleges and universities in its metropolitan area, what role do universities such as Boston University or Harvard University play in Boston’s Olympic plans?
Institutions like BU and Harvard are an integral part of the Boston plan with the potential to host a number of events and utilize facilities after the Games have completed.
Much has been written about the cost of hosting major sporting events such as the Olympics, especially about the Games in Sochi and Athens. How has the city of Boston balanced the financial risks of this bidding process with the potential upside of hosting such a world event?
Even with the release of the bidding documents, all the details of the bid are not clear, particularly on the financial side. In a number of places, the bid documents talk about ‘public-private partnerships’ to fund a lot of the construction. The largest part of this will be the Olympic Village, which UMass-Boston expects to use as on-campus housing after the Games. UMass will be paying for this, either out of bond funds or operating funds over time, but a public-private partnership suggests that the upfront costs will be financed in some way. It will be a complex task to control financial risks and structure contracts that protect taxpayers, particularly when you have a hard deadline to host the Games.