Thursday, March 19, 2015

Olympics? Not in my front yard.

Other than concerns about the taxpayers being left on the hook, life as we know it being disrupted, and having the whole thing turn into one ginormous cluster, I had been running pretty neutral on Boston’s bid for hosting the summer Olympics in 2024.

And then I read about the possibility of hosting the beach volleyball event on Boston Common.

Well, that one made no sense.

Boston Common is not that large – only 50 acres*. And a whole lot of that 50 acres is taken up by things like the softball/Little League fields, the Frog Pond skating rink/wading pool, the Frog Pond playground, the ancient cemetery, the Parkman Bandstand, the dog play area, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, two subway stops, four entrances to the under-the-Common garage, walking paths, and an awful lot of very old trees. In other words, there is precious little by way of wide open spaces in which to erect a beach volleyball court and stands without putting a lot of other activities (i.e., the kind that us non-Olympic athletes take part in, like walking the dog) on hold and, more than likely, destroying some of our precious and rare outdoor space.

And, given that Boston is actually on the, duh, ocean, might a place that’s actually a beach, duh, not be a better site for beach volleyball. Why, in Boston proper alone, there’s Savin Hill Beach and Malibu (yes, indeed) Beach. Spectators could take it all in from the Dorchester Yacht Club. And right outside of Boston, there’s plenty of other beaches, of which Revere Beach would seem to be an excellent venue. (I’d vote for Nantasket, but at high tide there is no Nantasket.)

Anyway, beach volley ball on the Common: BAD IDEA.

And then things went from bad to worse, and I saw that the group putting together the bid was considering the Public Garden for road cycle events.

When I read this one, my head began to spin off of my neck.

Compared to the Public Garden, the Boston Common looks like Nebraska.

All of 24 acres, the Public Garden is perhaps the most beautiful public park in the country. Public Garden - 2


Okay, the image is a bit fuzzy, but you get the picture.

It’s small. It’s lovely. It’s flowery. It has lovely trees. It has grassy areas (in an urban neighborhood where there are no lawns). It has the swan boats. It has fountains, monuments (including one dedicated to the invention of ether and another dedicated to the local victims of 9/11), and a really cool bridge.

And we’re going to have cyclists racing, and spectators trampling, through it?

Maybe they just threw this idea in there hoping that folks would concede on the beach volley ball on the Common suggestion.

If so, the organizers are wrong.

The organization that maintains the Boston Common and the Public Garden has a message for those looking to bring the 2024 Olympics to the area: Stay off of our lawns.

“If we are a host of the Games, the parks should be premier places where people can come and visit. They should be open to the public, and not places that require ticketing,” said Elizabeth Vizza, executive director of the Friends of the Public Garden. (Source: Boston Globe)

Oh, the organizing committee says that these are just ideas being floated, and that they’ll listen to the communities that will be impacted.

But [Rich] Davey [of Boston 2024, the organizing committee] also pointed at the potential benefits the Games could have for Boston’s green spaces.

“We believe the investment we could make in the Boston Common as a result of hosting the Olympic Games would be a tremendous legacy,” Davey said.

And what might that legacy be? I really don’t think we need a beach volley ball court in our midst. Even placing it on the Esplanade that runs along the Charles River would make more sense. (Don’t tell the Friends of the Esplanade say I said anything.)

Vizza said the Friends of the Public Garden aren’t against bringing the Olympics to town, and they welcome an open dialogue about alternative ways to use the parks if the city is picked to host the games.

“We made [Mayor Martin J. Walsh] aware of the vote, and reassured him it wasn’t about the Olympics as a whole—it’s just about our parks,” she said. “They are valuable, and they are vulnerable.”

When I walk out my front door, I’m looking at the Public Garden. When I turn left and walk a very short block, I’m opposite the Boston Garden.

The Friends of the Public Garden is a private group that works with the City to keep the Common and Public Garden nice. They’re HQ is right next door. I’ve been thinking about joining. And now I’ll be doing so.

Let the games begin. Just not in my front yard.


*For the sake of comparison, New York’s Central Park is 843 acres, and Chicago’s Lincoln Park covers 1,208 acres.

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