It’s always helpful to seek out other people’s thinking on big issues.
Right now, it appears the people of Boston are, shall we say, a little conflicted on whether that city should pursue a bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. Two Boston Globe columnists, Dan Shaughnessy from sports and Shirley Leung from the business side, are on opposite sides of the matter.
Leung is urging local government and businesses to go for it, while Shaughnessy wants Beantown to have nothing to do with the matter. Both Leung and Shaughnessy have local ties, having written for the Sun and the Evening Sun, respectively.
Speaking as a current denizen of Charm City, let me assure them that folks in their previous abode would be happy to have the Games here.
A quick explanation: The International Olympic Committee will choose the 2024 Games site in three years. The USOC will decide next year whether to move an American city forward from a list of Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington.
While Washington would be the official host location if successful, it stands to reason that Baltimore and Maryland would receive significant portions of the Games. Think about it: The soccer finals at M&T Bank Stadium. Sailing and rowing events in Annapolis. Volleyball and the Olympic village at College Park. And the biggie: The triumphant return of baseball, currently banished from the Games, at Oriole Park.
There are other possibilities, of course. Boxing, wrestling and some basketball events could be staged in downtown Baltimore, provided there’s a new arena to replace the dilapidated facility on Baltimore Street. The Baltimore Arena, which would be 62 years old in 2024, was scheduled to be replaced through a proposal from construction magnate Willard Hackerman. Before Mr. Hackerman died in February at the age of 95, he pledged $.5 billion in funding for an arena and a new hotel, if the city and state would pick up costs to expand the convention center and for infrastructure.
It’s not clear if he left provisions for plans to continue, but a chance to bring a big part of the world’s showcase event to Baltimore is a pretty good reason to find out.
The city and state would also need to dramatically improve public transportation throughout the region. You can’t expect thousands of tourists to get from place to place on the sad spectacle of subway, light rail and buses we have now.
And yes, I hear the howls of protests about funding priorities. Sure, the city needs better schools, housing, infrastructure maintenance and then some--all pursuits worthier of a mammoth taxpayer outlay than the Olympics. And the rampant corruption that seems to be permanently attached to the IOC should give everyone in the DMV pause about pursuing such a project.
But that pause shouldn’t get in the way of making history. And if the Bostonians don’t want a part of the Olympics, well, we’ll be happy to sell them tickets.