Group Protests Boston Bid for 2024 Olympics, Calls for Greater Public Involvement
BOSTON/South Boston - Organizers and supporters of No Boston Olympics, the local grassroots group protesting the city’s recent bid to host the 2024 summer games, gathered outside the Institute of Contemporary Art Monday night before the Boston Globe’s “‘Off the Page’ Conversations” debate between former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Juliette Kayyem representing Boston 2024, the group that formulated and submitted the city’s bid, and Chris Dempsey, co-chair of No Boston Olympics (NBO).
Kade Crockford, an NBO organizer, declared that bringing the Olympic games to Boston would be “a catastrophe for civil liberties.”
“The standard of civil liberties in Boston will decline heavily if the Olympics come here,” Crockford said. “We saw it at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 and it will only get worse. Think of the technology, the security cameras, the surveillance.”
According to their mission statement, NBO’s stance against bringing the games to the Hub rests on three key tenets: the Olympics do not boost local economies, the games are expensive and Massachusetts tax payers will be shouldering the burden, and the Olympics have what NBO refers to as serious opportunity costs – with every legislator focused on the games, Boston officials won’t be able to pay attention to what Boston needs – improving local schools, decreasing healthcare costs and working to reduce urban violence.
“This is not something Boston should have anything to do with,” said Seneca Joyner of Safe Hub Collective (formerly Hollaback Boston), who lived in Atlanta during the 1996 games and witnessed the troubling impact an elite international event the scale of the Olympics had on local communities, particularly communities of color.
“The factors that go into the bid, that go into making this possible, is not good for the city,” Joyner said. “I don’t want to go through that again, I don’t want my kids to go through that again, I don’t want my community to go through that again. These things break the backs of communities.”
Concerns about race, class, a lack of transparency around the bidding process, and, most prominently, whether the people of Boston are interested in hosting the Olympics were key to both NBO’s protest and the debate between Kayyem and Dempsey.
“The CEOs interested in the games, they’re not interested in what’s best for the people of Massachusetts,” Dempsey said during the moderated discussion. “At the end of the day the International Olympics Committee does not have the interests of the city of Boston at heart.”.
Kayyem spoke of a Boston 2024 Olympics as a chance for a new tradition for the games, one that would allow the “innovation, technology and sustainability” of the city to be maintained and reflected.
“Boston has the capacity to be a leader of a new Olympic movement…(Boston 2024) is focusing on an Olympics that is sustainable and cost effective,” she said. “We are presenting a vision of the Olympics that if the committees don’t want we will not win.”
Kayyem also reminded the audience that Boston 2024’s bid has been approved by Mayor Marty Walsh, which should put naysayers’ minds at ease. “The idea that a group of people in a secret room are deciding the fate of Boston is just not true,” she said.
But while the Mayor may have approved the bid no public hearings have been held regarding the bid or the public’s sentiments on having Boston host the Olympics in 2024. The bid is currently not a public document.
“This should be a public debate,” Dempsey said. “As a city, we have to think big, but we need to think smart. The three week party that is the Olympics will be is thinking big, but is it thinking smart?”