In what the AP calls a "hastily called news conference" this morning, Boston mayor Marty Walsh announced that the city will "refuse" to sign its host city contract unless he can be sure taxpayers won't be paying for cost overruns.
Earlier this year, Boston won the right to be the US bid city for the 2024 summer Olympics, an honour that many in the city seemed to consider anything but. At the time, Walsh assured the city that the games would be mostly privately funded, and that, in his words, "I will never leave Boston with a large price tag of an unpaid debt." But contention surrounding the high price of hosting has been intense in the months since — no one, it seemed, was particularly excited about the bid.
Then, last night, we learned that Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker — who has not publicly supported the bid yet — was scheduled to talk to the United States Olympic Committee about it, saying that he wouldn't be able to commit to supporting it until he knew more about the potential costs to taxpayers.
Now, Walsh looks like he's teetering on the edge, too. "If committing to signing a guarantee today is what's required to move forward, then Boston is no longer pursuing to host the 2024 Summer Games," he said today, according to Boston.com. "I cannot commit to putting the taxpayers at risk." The US Olympic Committee — the organisation that chose Boston in the first place — has to make a formal bid in September, which doesn't give them much time to find an alternative if Boston really does withdraw.
One alternative, as the AP suggests, is Los Angeles. That's actually a pretty interesting idea. LA had a strong bid, largely because it was based on re-using existing venues and keeping costs down. Back in 1984, LA hosted what we've called the most successful games ever — especially when it came to not hanging decades-long financial albatross around the city's neck.
In theory, LA could do it again, reusing its 1980s venues and using the games as a good reason to improve its infrastructure and transit systems. That could set a good precedent for other cities who want to host but don't want to spend themselves into ruin.
Lead image: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer