Is it heresy to say that the Olympics could be good for Boston?

According to various news articles, everyone in the Boston area is against the Olympics. Although I’m sure that it will be a waste of $billions I am in favor of us hosting the games and I think we can get more out of them than most other U.S. cities.

What’s special about Boston? We are much more prone to endless argument, studies, debate, and lawsuits than a typical American city. In the time that it would take the Chinese to build four ring highways around a city, Boston can only get about halfway through the litigation about adding a short extra runway at Logan Airport (it was a 30-year process to add Runway 14-32 (a little history) and then litigation continued after completion (e.g., this lawsuit against the FAA)).

Generally civic approval processes in Massachusetts work under the assumption that time is meaningless and money is infinite. With a hard deadline of 2024 people would be forced to make decisions, clear away obstacles, and forgo “let’s do some more study” or “let’s have another lawsuit” conclusions to meetings.

There is no question that at least half of the money spent will be wasted. But that’s true of much that state and local governments do. The difference with the Olympics is that at least something would get done, e.g., completion of various T extensions.

What do readers think? Is hosting an Olympics sensible for a city that otherwise typically ties itself up with NIMBY fights?

7 thoughts on “Is it heresy to say that the Olympics could be good for Boston?

  1. I don’t know. Slicing away proper rules and regulations to get it done in a short time would probably mean there’d be a lot of crony capitalism and rent seeking and politically connected people getting rich, unlike the situation now in Boston. Oh, wait …

  2. You’re assuming that just because things HAVE to be done by a certain deadline means that they WILL get done. Failure IS an option.

  3. If Mitt and Bain (et al) have Czar-like authority over the buildup, Boston might get something done on time and be left with something useful after the cheers fade. But it’s a long shot. I think the average Boston taxpayer/commuter will vote no. And I can’t blame them.

    (I didn’t vote for Mitt because he pretended to be a hardcore Republican. And didn’t have the guts to be who he is, mostly a sensible moderate. But I know he’s smart and he knows how to run a project.)

  4. Sochi is an example of what happens when the Olympics show up before you’re ready. In Boston, events would be haphazardly dispersed to various college facilities because the “official” stadium is still “three years” from completion (in 2029).

  5. Bostonian’s, myself included, have not forgotten about the Big Dig [1]. After all it has not even been paid for, if ever:

    “The Boston Globe estimated that the project will ultimately cost $22 billion, including interest, and that it will not be paid off until 2038” [2]

    Why do we think the Olympics will be any difference? Due to Bostons historic architecture, and tight land, doing any kind of construction is 100x more complex compared to a “normal” Olympics. Beside, unlike in Beijing, our government cannot just claim land and start projects out of thin air.

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Dig
    [2] http://www.boston.com/news/traffic/bigdig/articles/2008/07/17/big_digs_red_ink_engulfs_state/

  6. Phil, that’s just blasphemy, coming from you! 🙂

    No, Olympics will just make things worse.

    I think Taxachussetts needs a new political system. I propose a rotating dictatorship, meaning every 4th election cycle, the mayor of Boston basically calls all the shots. During the other cycles, people can elect representatives. Better yet, bring in a small Chinese politburo to make decisions.

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