Boston leader assures IOC on securing support for 2024 bid
LONDON (AP) The new leader of Boston's troubled bid for the 2024 Olympics assured the IOC on Wednesday that local residents will support the effort once they've been fully informed of the plans and the long-term benefits of the games.
''Our point today was that an informed public is our best ally,'' Steve Pagliuca told The Associated Press after daylong talks with International Olympic Committee officials in Lausanne, Switzerland.
A delegation of Boston and U.S. Olympic Committee leaders traveled to IOC headquarters as part of the new ''invitation phase'' for bid cities.
The Boston group was headed by Pagliuca, the Boston Celtics co-owner who took over as bid chairman last Thursday, replacing construction magnate John Fish. The USOC team included chairman Larry Probst and CEO Scott Blackmun.
The Boston bid has struggled ever since it was chosen by the USOC in December as the American candidate over Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington. Polls have shown local support for the Boston bid at below 50 percent.
''We addressed that by telling them the truth,'' Pagliuca said, adding that the weeks of snow that buried Boston this winter and shut down the local transit system had put a damper on the idea of undertaking a massive project like the Olympics.
''We've seen a bounce-back in public support as the snow has cleared out and the governor has come out with a very aggressive plan to get the public transportation system world-class,'' he said in a telephone interview.
Now, Pagliuca said, Boston 2024's priority is to lay out the facts for the public and show the games can help transform the city in line with its 2030 urban plans.
''We're going about doing that now at a feverish pace to finalize these plans and get them out there,'' he said. ''Hopefully that will get done by mid-July.''
Pagliuca said Boston won't go forward ''unless we see the risks are far less than the rewards.''
USOC board member Angela Ruggiero said at a hearing in Boston that week that the USOC was still vetting the bid and there was ''no guarantee'' the city would be put forward as the U.S. candidate. That fueled more speculation that Boston could be dumped in favor of Los Angeles - which hosted the Olympics in 1932 and 1984 - before the Sept. 15 deadline for submission of bids to the IOC.
The USOC has a board meeting on June 30, where Boston bid leaders will present an update.
''I'm sure it will be a lively discussion,'' Blackmun told the AP from Lausanne.
Asked whether Boston would definitely be the U.S. candidate, Blackmun said: ''The position is Boston is our bid city. We selected them because their bid aligned with what the IOC wants. We're extremely excited about the vision that they've laid out.''
Rome and Hamburg, Germany, are also declared bidders. Paris and Budapest, Hungary, are expected to enter the race soon. The IOC will select the host city in 2017.
Wednesday's talks centered on the ''Olympic Agenda 2020'' reform program approved by the IOC in December. The IOC wants to make bidding and hosting more flexible and less expensive, stressing long-term legacy and use of existing and temporary venues.
''This is great for Boston,'' Pagliuca said. ''I came away heartened by the impact that is going to have on cost-effective and creative games for Boston and for bid cities in general.''
No Boston Olympics, which opposes the games, sent a letter to the IOC on Tuesday stating that polls have shown that less than half of residents support the bid and the project will require costly construction.
''Boston is a world-class city and our citizens do not seek the IOC's approval or endorsement,'' the letter said. ''Many here in Massachusetts do not believe Boston 2024's bid will help us move forward ... Instead, we think Boston 2024 could make some of our region's civic challenges worse, while threatening our state's fiscal health.''
Blackmun said the opponents are raising ''very legitimate questions.''
''I think in due time Boston 2024 will have answers to those questions,'' he said.
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