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March 16, 2015

Anti-Olympics group delivers its message

Just three days after the head of the panel pushing for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Boston addressed Worcester-area business executives, the leaders of a group opposed to the effort warned that the costs could well exceed projections and not provide economic benefits.

The group, No Boston Olympics, has called the games “another big dig,” in reference to the multibillion-dollar transportation infrastructure project in Boston that concluded a few years ago. The group believes that staging the games here would cost at least $5 billion, yet is likely to run between $10 billion and $20 billion.

The group’s co-chairs, Chris Dempsey and Kelley Gossett, cited the $14.3 billion cost estimate for the game that the CEO of Boston 2024, Richard Davey, told business leaders earlier in the week. But that, Dempsey told a smaller group Friday at the offices of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, comes before cost overruns. And he cited a study out of the University of Oxford that said every Olympics since 1960 has suffered cost overruns.

Further, Dempsey added, the International Olympic Committee, which oversees the games, requires the host government to guarantee that it will cover overruns. And if there are insufficient private and public donations, the organizers run the danger of having to call on the state to cover costs, Dempsey said.

To improve the Boston bid, Dempsey said organizers should remove the taxpayer guarantee. Organizers of the Los Angeles Games in 1984 were successful with that, and the games returned a surplus, he noted.

Also, No Boston Olympics advocates the creation of an independent watchdog group with full auditing access to all of Boston 2024’s documents and records. In addition, a budgeted $600 million payment to the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) should be withheld until all public facilities and spaces used by Boston 2024 for the games are restored and improved, and provided with money for maintenance, the group recommends.

“We think the USOC should have more skin in the game,” he said.

Meanwhile, the House chairman of the legislature’s transportation committee wants Boston Olympics proponents to detail their final decisions on venues and agree to foot the bill of any independent review to assess the impact of hosting the 2024 games.

"If the governor and the legislature determine that we need our own outside review, then I think it’s appropriate that the private applicant assume those costs," Mattapoisett Democrat Bill Straus said in a statement Monday.

Straus said he is "open" to the Olympics proposal but wants to ensure taxpayers' dollars are protected. Straus also wants Boston 2024 to move beyond "concepts" and give the public solid plans ahead of their September submission to the IOC.

"I do not want to see the public left out of the discussion by only learning in mid-September of this year where Boston 2024 is intending to locate specific events," Straus said. He said the proponents should set a date "long before their coming submission" when they would provide the public with their final venue choices.

Dempsey believes a clear split in recent polls of Massachusetts residents shows there’s a lot of concern within the state. “We hope we’re bringing attention to the issue,” he said.

(Material from State House News Service was used in this report.)

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