Monday, January 12, 2015

There’s No-lympics like Olympics

I was watching the national news the other night, when the banner running across the bottom of the screen caught my eye.

Oh, no.

Oh, yes.

Boston has been chosen as America’s candidate to host the 2024 Olympics.

We had debated this on Christmas Eve – loudly, of course – and, not surprisingly, the closer the debater actually lived to downtown Boston, the more likely they were to – loudly, of course – be opposed.

I was – loudly, course – among the loyal opposition.

After all, although I had read precious little about the details regarding where this was all supposed to take place – the Boston proposal was submitted by a private group, which kept everything that inquiring minds might want to know very hush-hush -  I did hear the word “walkable” bandied about, which – quite scarily – suggests to me that some of what the sponsors have in mind is going to be taking place right outside my door.

How many people descend on a city for the Olympics? Hundreds of thousands? Millions?

How much taxpayer money gets spent on what, from everything I’ve read is never a financially winning proposition? Hundreds of millions? Billions?

The private group that put together the Boston 2024 bid claims that this will cost nary a taxpayer dime, other than already planned infrastructure costs. That it will rely on using local colleges and universities, public transportation, and existing facilities, like Harvard Stadium for soccer. (Bet fans who pay big bucks will be delighted to sit on those tiers of backless concrete seats.)

And where do the opening and closing ceremonies take place?

We don’t have a mega stadium.

Fenway Park seats fewer than 40,000. Harvard Stadium about 30,000. BC – our only big time college football team, which nobody local gives a hoot about, unless they’re BC grads – has a football stadium that can fit about 45,000.

But our big kahuna – the Patriots Gillette Stadium – holds about 70,000 fans. But it’s 30 miles away.

Sure, it’s theoretically on public transportation – another claim of the sponsors is that the Boston Olympics will be both walkable and on public transpo – but if you don’t take the train to Foxboro, you need to be prepared to spend about 2 hours getting out of the parking lot and another hour getting onto the highway. 

I was thinking maybe that, if the opening and closing ceremonies weren’t at Gillette, they could just be held on the Esplanade, next to the Charles River.

After all, half-a-million people show up for the Pops concert every 4th of July. Why not just let the Olympic spectators sit on blankets on grass and watch the program on big screen TV’s?

We could have low-key ceremonies. Patriotic sing-along. Couple of choruses of “Sweet Caroline.” Reenactment of the Boston Massacre?

Maybe it wouldn’t be as exciting as James Bond andBut  the Queen parachuting into London, but why not?

Then I read that the planners were planning to put up an Olympic Stadium in South Boston. (Congratulations, Southie!)

But what would it be used for once the Olympics waved bye-bye?

Then I heard that the plan was to erect a temporary structure and dismantle it after the fact.

Which sounds like a colossal waste of time and money.

Maybe they can figure out how to make an inflatable stadium, kind of like the bouncy castles, and just truck it off afterward to the next venue.

We’ll see how this all plays out over the next couple of years.

Of course, the likelihood of Boston getting the nod from the Olympic Committee is next to nil.

I don’t see Boston 2024 offering up the usual bribes and, unless there’s a political reason to choose the USA – i.e., the august Committee decides that they can’t keep dissing the power that be forever – I’m sure that we’ll be found not worthy. (Plus I suspect we’ll have a lot more prominent and vocal an opposition than, say Istanbul.)

Anyway, while I have done plenty of pissing and moaning about the Olympics, the thought of it is a little exciting.

Sure, it’ll be a cluster in a lot of respects.

We’re a city with downtown streets designed by wandering cows, not engineers with grid paper.

Our narrow sidewalks are already thronged with summer-time tourists. Do we really need any more?

Traffic will be a nightmare, and I suspect that everyone else in this building with join airbnb and rent out their digs to large parties of drunken yahoos. (Thanks, guys.)

Whether “it” happens or not, it’s a long way off, and a lot can happen in 9.5 years. For all I know, I’ll have upped stakes and decamped to play out my elder years in beautiful downtown Worcester. Or my ashes will be pushing up daisies – or azaleas – in Mt. Auburn Cemetery.

But if I am still here, my cousin Ellen and her husband Mike are most assuredly invited to stay here at Ground Zero, walking and public transporting themselves to venues, including the inflatable stadium in South Boston.

I’ll be the crazy old lady, hunkered down with a blanket over my head, peeping out only to watch an occasional bit of the opening and closing ceremonies and muttering “walkable, sustainable, no cost to taxpayers – hah!” to myself.

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