After Boston Drops Olympic Bid, U.S. Committee Scrambles To Find New Choice

After Boston Drops Olympic Bid, U.S. Committee Scrambles To Find New Choice

7:56pm Jul 29, 2015

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What now? That's what the U.S. Olympic Committee has to figure out now that they've dropped Boston's bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. And they only have until mid-September to offer up another choice. Now, increasingly, this is a problem for Olympic organizers. They only managed to wrangle a handful into applying for the 2022 Winter Games and ended up with only two choices - Beijing and Almaty Kazhastan. In the last few years, Chicago and New York failed to make the final cut for their bids. Now, to find out more, we're going to talk next with Andrew Zimbalist. He's the author of "Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting The Olympics And The World Cup." Welcome to the program.

ANDREW ZIMBALIST: Thank you, good to be with you.

CORNISH: So Boston obviously is not the first city to have to withdraw in recent years. Can you name some others and the reasons why?

ZIMBALIST: Stockholm, Oslo, San Moritz, Cracow, Munich, Denver - in each case, the citizens expressed severe reservations about the costs - the financial costs - and potentially the environmental costs.

CORNISH: Now, the International Olympic Committee did try to make some kind of rule changes to make the process more appealing. It came in this reform package called Agenda 2020. Can you tell us what were some of the changes that they thought would entice more cities to do this?

ZIMBALIST: Well, fundamentally, they said three things - that they will be increasingly flexible in terms of the layout of the venues for the Olympics and in dealing with the rules around bidding for the Olympics, more emphasis on environmental sustainability and they would put more emphasis on affordability through the allowance of the host city to use more and more temporary venues. Interestingly, Boston revealed that all of the venues - all 33 of the venues that they were putting in place for the Olympics - would be temporary. They were going to erect them and then take them down. We'll never know what would've happened. But if Boston is up against Paris, which is going to, among other things, use the Stade de France - which is an 80,000-capacity stadium with luxury boxes, with premium seating, with catering capabilities - it would've been very interesting to see whether the IOC was really committed to inexpensive venues or whether they were going to select the bid that provided the most lavish, the most extravagant facilities.

CORNISH: The U.S. hasn't held an Olympics since Atlanta in 1996. Is there a chance that the U.S. won't have an entry at all?

ZIMBALIST: I think there's some likelihood that Los Angeles will jump into the breach here. Mayor Garcetti will have to say that he's willing to give it the financial imprimatur, or the financial backstop. I don't know if he's going to be willing to do that or not. Los Angeles has most of the venues already in place. They've hosted the Olympics twice, so their expense would be less than Boston. But they will still have to build an Olympic village, which is over $2 billion in cost. They'll still have to build a media and broadcast center, which is probably $500 million in cost. So Mayor Garcetti will have some hard thinking to do.

Even if Los Angeles does enter the bidding, though, as I suggested a moment ago, there are very impressive bids that are at least going to come out of Paris and Hamburg, perhaps also from Budapest, Italy and Toronto. And it seems to me unlikely. You know, Germany hasn't had the Summer Olympics since 1972 when Munich hosted it. And Paris hasn't had the Summer Olympics since, I think, it's 1924. So even though the United States hasn't had it since 1996, these other cities and countries have a stronger claim on that argument than the United States does.

CORNISH: Andrew Zimbalist - he's the author of "Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting The Olympics And The World Cup." He's a professor at Smith College. Thanks so much for speaking with us.

ZIMBALIST: My pleasure. Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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