Boston mayor: Olympic bid won’t go forward if forced to sign contract today

Boston 2024
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The Boston 2024 Olympic bid will not move forward if it depends on Boston mayor Marty Walsh signing a document today that could put taxpayers at risk if there are cost overruns, Walsh said in a news conference Monday.

“If committing to signing a guarantee today is what’s required to move forward, then Boston is no longer pursuing the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Walsh said. “The idea of hosting the Olympics, I still feel the same today as I did three months ago. I think it’s an incredible opportunity for the city of Boston.”

Asked if that means the end of the Boston 2024 Olympic bid, Walsh said, “You’ll have to ask the USOC,” later adding, “We’re going to see how the USOC responds today.”

Walsh said he told USOC CEO Scott Blackmun those same thoughts earlier Monday and that Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker also spoke with the USOC on Monday.

A USOC board members conference call to discuss Boston 2024 was scheduled for Monday.

“They want us to sign the contract as soon as possible,” Walsh said.

Walsh said his office has been working with Olympic planners to come up with language for a document that he would sign.

“We don’t have to put a document in until September of this year,” Walsh said. “The actual requirement isn’t required until the IOC chooses a host city in 2017, but we keep hearing, and we’ve read through different paper reports that they want the guarantee signed. And in good faith, I can’t sign the guarantee [today].”

Will Toronto join 2024 Olympic bidders?

On Saturday, it was reported that the Monday USOC board call could end with Boston’s bid being pulled and replaced by Los Angeles, according to insidethegames.

A USOC spokesperson confirmed Saturday in an email that there was a scheduled board call with an agenda including but not limited to a Boston update but did not confirm, deny or comment, when asked in the original email, on the possibility that the Boston bid could be pulled and replaced by Los Angeles.

The deadline to bid for the 2024 Olympics is Sept. 15. Budapest, Hamburg, Paris and Rome have declared intentions to bid. IOC members will vote to choose the 2024 Olympic host city in 2017.

The USOC chose Boston as its 2024 bid city over Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., in a Jan. 8 announcement.

Baker said in a Friday press conference that USOC leaders scheduled a Monday meeting and that he would call into it, according to reports. USOC leaders had requested that Baker declare by the end of the day Friday whether he supported the bid, according to The Associated Press.

Baker refused to make that declaration Friday. A Baker spokesman said his office was not aware of a Friday USOC deadline, according to the Boston Herald.

“I get the fact that everybody would love us to just sort of say ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ today, and I appreciate the fact that the timing in all of this is frustrating,” Baker said at a news conference, according to the AP.

Public support in Boston and Massachusetts has been less than 50 percent for months. USOC chairman Larry Probst said last month those poll numbers needed to clear 50 percent “relatively soon.”

Probst said then that support was in the low- to mid-40 percent range, similar to numbers from recent polls by Boston media.

“Rather than specific numbers, we obviously want to see a positive trend, and the sooner the better,” Probst said after a quarterly USOC board of directors meeting in California. “Obviously, we’d like to see it get over 50 percent relatively soon and ultimately get into the mid-60s range, certainly before the vote of the IOC in 2017 [to choose the 2024 Olympic host city].

“Obviously none of us are happy with the current numbers in Boston, but it’s a process, and it’s going to play out over the next 2 1/2 years.”

Blackmun said June 10 that there had not been conversations with any of the other three finalist cities to step in for Boston.

Boston officials announced March 24 that the bid would not move forward if a majority of voters in Boston and in Massachusetts did not support it in a referendum planned for November 2016.

“Obviously that’s a weakness of the bid right now,” Blackmun said of support numbers June 10. “We want to make sure we turn that into a strength if we can.”

Boston 2024 announced changes to the original bid plan in the spring, including a “version 2.0.″

The U.S. is in the midst of its longest stretch between hosting Olympics since the 28-year gap between 1932 and 1960. It last hosted a Summer Games in 1996 (Atlanta) and a Winter Games in 2002 (Salt Lake City).