US Olympic officials reaffirmed Boston as America`s 2024 Summer Olympics bid candidate despite more opposition than support from area citizens, hopeful a revamped plan from organizers will win public support.
US Olympic Committee (USOC) chief executive Scott Blackmun and USOC chairman Larry Probst said Tuesday after a quarterly USOC board meeting that they have not spoken with any other losing finalist as a backup plan ahead of September`s deadline to submit bids to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
"We`re focused exclusively on Boston," Blackmun said. "We haven`t had conversations with Los Angeles, Washington or San Francisco. Boston is our partner."
But Boston 2024 is a partner under siege with opponents polling greater support than backers of the project. Americans nationwide back the idea of hosting the Summer Olympics for the first time since Atlanta in 1996, but that support vanishes at the notion of having the Olympics staged near them.
"We obviously want to see a positive trend and the sooner the better," said Blackmun, citing Boston support numbers in the low to mid 40-percent range.
"We would like to see it get over 50 percent really soon and ultimately get into the mid 60s range, certainly before the IOC vote in 2016."
That`s when the IOC will decide a list of finalists, among which they will pick a 2024 Olympics host in 2017.
Blackmun and Probst said they were impressed with the revamped plan and the $4.6 billion bid appears sound on a budgetary footing, but they will remain in touch with bid organizers over the next few weeks in hopes public support grows.
"We just want to stay in touch, understand what the trends are and how the bid is accepted in the community," Probst said. "Obviously that`s a weakness in the bid right now."
Asked if there was a breaking point for a US bid, Probst said, "We would much rather have higher polling numbers. If at any point we decide this thing is not on track, and I`m sure that will be a mutual decision... we honestly havent talked about this. We have a good plan that has just been rolled out and we haven`t had time to get support for it yet."Blackmun said the USOC is not discussing the possibility of not submitting a bid in September.
"We`re discussing how to get the people of Boston to give a hard and fair look at this proposal. That`s what we`re focused on."
Boston 2024`s new plan emphasizes the long-term benefits to the city from hosting the Olympics, including the development of two new neighborhoods following the Games, boosting the tax base with 8,000 apartments and new shops and restaurants in the area of the Olympic Village and the Olympic Stadium, which would be torn down after the Games.
"The thing we want to avoid is building a big stadium that won`t be used after the Games," Blackmun said. "This is a cost effective approach that minimizes the expenditure of the stadium."
Stressing the transformational impact on Boston infrastructure needs will help build support, said Boston 2024 chairman Stephen Pagliuca.
"None of us are happy with the numbers but it`s a process that`s going to roll out over the next 2 1/2 years," he said. "With this plan we think we will build support over time. It`s an amazing economic program."
A major public concern has been fear taxpayers will be forced to pick up cost overruns but Pagliuca says several plans, including revenue reserves and insurance, will be in place to ensure that does not happen. Citizens will be on the hook for upgrades in transportation to support the Olympic effort, work that would be needed in time anyway, according to organizers.