Hosting the Olympics Was a Terrible Idea Anyway

<a href=";pl=edit-00">Ververidis Vasilis</a> / <a href=";pl=edit-00"></a>

OK, so the US Olympic Committee just axed Boston's bid for the 2024 Olympics. Boston is better off.

Los Angeles, Beijing, and London would tell you hosting the Summer Games was a good idea. Montreal, Sydney, and Athens would tell you hosting was a horrible idea. Boston is none of those cities. In fact, it's smaller than all of them, coming in just a hair shy of Athens, in terms of population, at around 650,000 people. And while the greater metro area includes about 4.5 million, well, there are 4.5 million people who should be thankful the city's mayor, Marty Walsh, is looking out for them.

Walsh came out Monday saying he wouldn't sign a proposal for the 2024 Olympic bid unless more details on finances were filled in.


I refuse to mortgage the future of the City away. I refuse to put Boston on the hook for overruns. And, I refuse to...

Posted by Marty Walsh on Monday, July 27, 2015
Winning an Olympic bid is a PR coup for any politician. But it can also be an economic boondoggle. Look no further than the balance sheets of previous Olympic hosts. Athens lost an estimated $15 BILLION, and most of the venues constructed for the XXVIII Olympiad look more like the derelict house in a Scooby Doo episode than world-class sports arenas. Hell, Montreal didn't pay off its Olympic stadium until 2006 -- 30 years after it hosted the Olympics, and two years after the Expos fled Canada. But at least the Alouettes (CFL) and Impact (MLS) play there sometimes?

Boston could have modeled itself after Barcelona. The Olympics breathed new life into the Mediterranean port, injecting millions of dollar in revamped infrastructure, which has led to a tourism renaissance that's actually been almost too good. The chances it'd be more Montreal than Barcelona were likely too great. It's not like anyone was gonna tear down Fenway to put in a new ballpark. And the Patriots already play out in Foxboro in a stadium built in 2002. 

The Summer Olympics are my favorite sporting event, and I've dreamt of attending (and now covering) since I was a kid.  It feels unpatriotic to say I wouldn't want them on US soil. But for a city and its taxpayers, they're a crapshoot. For every Beijing ($146 million profit) or Seoul (a record $300 million profit) there's another Moscow ($1 billion loss) or Sydney ($2 billion loss). And for a city that took 15 years and 190% cost overrun to complete the Big Dig, Boston was staring down some scary figures.

Plus, does anyone outside Boston really think Boston is a world-class city? Don't get me wrong -- it's a cool place to visit and has tons of history. But it's not a megacity. It's smaller than El Paso, TX and Columbus, OH. Nobody wants the Olympics to be in El Paso, or in a city full of guys named Sully.

The Olympics need to be in some fast-developing (or always-evolving) city with the infrastructure and management in place to make the revamp work. Rio has the advantage of already hosting the World Cup (fraught with its own problems, of course), and I hope Tokyo shines. The Olympics aren't necessarily a cash cow -- well, they are for the Olympics organizers and TV stations. But they're not the ones ponying up the tax dollars.

Ryan Craggs is Thrillist's Senior News Editor. One of his earliest memories is Greg Louganis hitting his head in 1988. Follow him @ryanrcraggs.