By Kathryn Breen
A key component of the Boston2024 bid is ensuring that the Olympics would leave a lasting legacy for the city and that its changes would be beneficial for Boston in the long term.
Past games provide several examples of foundations and organizations being created to ensure a legacy of community impact and support. Additionally, in many instances host city’s new infrastructure served multiple purposes and was eventually converted into housing, stadiums, or other types of venues that benefitted the region.
The importance of legacy was reinforced in a February 2015 report on the bid by a special commission in the Massachusetts legislature. The report found that, “If new facilities need to be constructed, the Commission recommends that this is accomplished only with a clear legacy benefit defined.”
Following the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984, the LA84 Foundation was formed using seed money provided by the LA ‘84 Olympics surplus. LA84 hosts youth sport programs, distributes grants and awards to young athletes, and runs the largest sports research library in North America. The foundation’s website states that its goal is to “serve youth through sport and to increase knowledge of sport and its impact on people’s lives.”
Patrick Escobar, vice president of grants and programs with the LA84 Foundation, said that the foundation “was established with 40 percent of the $232.5 million surplus of the 1984 Olympic Games which is $93 million.”
Following the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002, the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation was formed as a way to support local youth athletic initiatives in that community.
“From community-based recreational camps, progression-oriented development programs to its official designation as an official U.S. Olympic Training Site at the Utah Olympic Oval and Utah Olympic Park, the Foundation represents the future of winter sports in North America,” the foundation stated on its website.
Despite its failed 2012 bid, New York City wound up benefitting from the plans it created. In “How New York City Won the Olympics,” NYU professor Mitchell Moss wrote, “From the outset, New York City’s plan for the 2012 Olympics was designed to spur action on, and obtain resources for projects that would have a long-term positive impact on the city whether or not the IOC chose New York City to host the games.”
Eric Bourassa, director of transportation at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, has highlighted the fact that, after New York City’s failed bid, the city was still able to successfully redevelop areas of Brooklyn because it had laid out plans for that area in the bidding process.
According to the report by Moss and the NYU Rudin Center of Transportation, “Planning for the 2012 Olympics provided the framework to shape the future of the city, through new mass transit, rezoning, and investment in parks, recreational facilities, and housing throughout the city.” In the long term, the plans and budgets that New York City had made in its Olympic bid were successfully implemented even though the 2012 Olympics were awarded to London, England.
Sydney, Australia, the host of the 2000 Summer Olympics, is a shining example of a successful legacy. The city’s Olympic Park, built for the games, currently serves as a commercial, residential, and sporting hub that holds over 130 organizations and employs over 12,000 people, according to Olympic.org.
In a 2012 interview on the website, CEO of the Sydney Olympic Park Authority, Alan Marsh, said, “The capability of Australia to successfully stage the Summer Olympics brought the world’s attention to the capabilities of Australian companies and individuals in a way not otherwise possible.” He said that the Olympic Park has allowed for conventions, exhibitions, entertainment events, and played host for the Rugby World Championships among other world sporting events.
The goal of Boston2024 is to build off these examples and avoid past mistakes made in host cities such as Athens and Beijing, where mega-venues sit empty and even abandoned. Members of the Boston community agree that they would like to see a lasting legacy for the youth and for the city should Boston win the bid. Jeanne Dubois, of the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Association, said, “while the games are happening we should also be raising awareness of youth sports and the important role that they play. We need to get the children involved.”
Bourassa said that Boston2024 has selected prime areas in need of redevelopment, so there is a lot of potential for legacy.
“If the Olympics went away tomorrow- there were no Olympics- would these still be good sites for redevelopment? Absolutely!,” Bourassa said.
“Boston has important priorities for the next 10 years and beyond and the Olympic Games could certainly fit into those but it has to be done with extreme attention to details and implementation,” said Michelle Wu, Boston City Councilor-at-Large.
The organization BSA Space plans to host a two-part series analyzing the potential legacy impact the 2024 Olympics would have on the city. “This effort can be a powerful catalyst for dialogue, engagement, and planning initiatives related to infrastructure, mobility, housing, sustainability, resiliency, innovation, and renewed investment in the public realm,” the organization stated on its site.
Those against Boston hosting the Olympics have said the city already is a world-class city with a promising legacy ahead, regardless of whether the city hosts the Olympics or not. No Boston Olympics and its supporters worry that these plans will simply serve to distract from the city’s other priorities. The group has said in its official statement, “The selection of the Boston2024 bid would mean a decade of civic spending and attention diverted to steel and concrete, not to investing in people.”