DENVER (AP) — Once the shock subsides, the work begins.
Boston was considered something of a long shot by insiders when the U.S. Olympic Committee whittled its list of candidates to bid for the 2024 Games down to four a few months ago.
The leadership team, largely unknown outside of New England, along with the compactness of the city, the politics and the protesters made Boston look like an underdog compared to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington.
Turned out, some of those so-called deficiencies turned into positives in the eyes of the USOC board members. The leader, John Fish, is a can-do businessman who gets the Olympics’ vision. The compactness looks more like a plus than a minus under the International Olympic Committee’s newly revised, less-is-more template for the Games. The politics and protesters — well, any city that undertakes this sort of endeavor will run into those issues.
Now begins a 32-month march toward the selection in September 2017.
Here are five of the biggest hurdles Boston and the USOC have to clear if they want to bring the Summer Games back to the United States for the first time since 1996:
THE SHOCK: So many Olympic insiders across both oceans considered San Francisco the sexiest choice and didn’t know nearly as much about Boston, which actually has a lot of the same qualities as the Bay Area. So, there was some head scratching going on when the pick was made. The good news for the USOC is that almost everyone in America’s Olympic family will galvanize behind the choice, especially after CEO Scott Blackmun and chairman Larry Probst have a chance to explain their thinking, both privately and publicly, starting at a news conference Friday. Will the international folks get on board, too?
WHO ARE YOU?: The bid process gives a city a chance to introduce itself to the world. Rome, already declared as a candidate, won’t have too big a challenge there, and neither will Paris, if it gets into the running. Boston is more of a blank slate when you move outside North America. The cradle of the American Revolution, a city steeped with history and education, it has always had a reputation of being a bit provincial. Takes a long time to fit in there. Now, it has to open its arms to the world and tell IOC members why they should entrust their most important event to the city.
INTERNAL POLITICS: The protest group, No Boston Olympics, is hardly the first to pop up in the history of bids. But give them credit — they’re motivated and organized. They call the Olympics a money drain, and history has proven them right: Initial cost estimates traditionally double or triple by the time the torch arrives. Is Boston big enough, and is the spin machine good enough, to either drown out the protesters or effectively rebuke their claims? Though the IOC knows the Olympics are always used as a political platform, it certainly doesn’t want to willingly walk into a mess.
EXTERNAL POLITICS: Every move made over the next two years by the USOC — or the U.S. government, for that matter — can have an impact on Boston’s bid. The deconstruct of Chicago’s last-place finish in the fight for 2016 placed much of the blame on dysfunctional USOC politics that made a U.S. bid inherently unlikeable, even if the Windy City itself looked pretty good. A new leadership team has spent years trying to smooth that out and has been given signals that things are better. One more thing: If a city in Africa, a continent that has never hosted the Olympics, makes a surprise bid, everything changes. The chance to give South America its first Olympics with Rio’s 2016 bid was another factor that doomed Chicago.
THE MONEY: The operating budget is less than $5 billion, the overall budget — when you factor in infrastructure and other improvements — will be a lot more than that. Somebody has to pay for it all and it won’t be the federal government. The government’s longstanding prohibition on funding always puts a U.S. bid a bit behind other cities, whose governments do pick up healthy portions of the tab. It’s nothing that can’t be overcome, but always a factor when the votes are being lined up, and a convenient excuse for IOC members to vote against the United States, even if they’re really doing it for other reasons.