BOSTON (AP) — Boston Mayor Marty Walsh made the case for the 2024 Olympics on Thursday night, saying the city has already benefited from the USOC decision to nominate it as the American host.
"It gives us the opportunity, whether or not we get the bid, for the next two years to go around the world and market our city to 110 different countries," Walsh told an overflow crowd at the first of nine public meetings he has scheduled. "The Olympic Games isn't going to take one bit of my energy away from improving the city of Boston."
Several hundred people crowded into the Suffolk Law School downtown on a frigid night to hear the mayor and bid organizers defend the city's bid. Almost all of those who asked questions or offered comments said they were opposed, but statements in favor of the bid also received significant applause.
"I love the Olympics and I love the city of Boston. But not together," said a man from Boston's South End. One Beacon Hill resident spoke against the games, and especially singled out the idea of hosting beach volleyball on the Boston Common — the nation's oldest public park.
"We love the place, and it's sacred," he said. "Please protect it."
A crowd of several hundred filled the room, spilled into the hallway and to an overflow room upstairs. The opposition group No Boston Olympics held out signs calling for money to be spent on better housing and public transportation instead of the Summer Games.
Walsh would not commit to scuttling the bid if a non-binding public referendum went against it, but he did say that a binding referendum would end the process; neither has been scheduled. He said the city was prepared to spend on infrastructure and provide land for the games, but said he would not use taxpayer money on cost overruns and the games themselves.
"I'm not going to mortgage the future of the city away," Walsh said. "I wouldn't sign any document that would make the city responsibility for a $10 billion overrun, or a $1 overrun."
Boston was selected as the American bid city last month, beating San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. The IOC plans to decide on a host city in 2017; bids from Italy, France, Germany, South Africa, Qatar and Azerbaijan are also expected.
Also Thursday, Boston 2024 added a member of Walsh's cabinet to the bid committee as chief administrative officer. Joseph Rull had been chief of operations and administration, overseeing six city departments.