Keep the Olympics out of Boston
A few months ago there was this tiny little rumor that Boston might be interested in hosting the summer 2024 Olympic Games. I first wrote about this topic here way back in February. I am, without question, completely opposed to Boston hosting the games. At the time I thought that my post was very far out and I never imagined that Boston would go on to bid for an win the American bid for the games. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened. So I figured that now would be a good time to reiterate my opposition.
Everybody Loves Boston
To be fair, Boston is an excellent city. Of all American cities that I have visited, it is by far my favorite. Boston has a beautiful layout, many eclectic neighborhoods, is very walkable and has one of the highest rates of public transit ridership in the country. If Boston were to host the Olympics, the city would likely pull in billions of dollars of federal support and funding, get upgrades to the MBTA and other great perks. Between now and 2017 when the final decision is made about what city will host the games, Boston, Massachusetts and the United States as a whole will likely focus on these very positive views of Boston hosting the games. But none of this means that Boston would actually be a great host city.
NO CITY is a Good Host City
That's right, hosting the Olympics is almost never an economically reasonable idea, unless you happen to be Los Angeles in 1984. The costs associated with the games are both astronomically and rising exponentially. This article from the New York Times explains that despite the perception that hosting the Olympics draws substantial tourism, the true effect on tourism for host cities is negligible. Typically, the revenue brought in by the games is somewhere in the three to six billion dollar range, but the costs are much higher. As you can see from the graph below, recent host cities have spent somewhere in the tens of billions of dollars range.
Boston Alone is a Poor Choice
Even if we foolishly ignore the large scale, Big Dig style, costs of hosting the games, there are several reasons that Boston itself is not the best choice for a host city.
First and foremost, Boston is already crowded with tourists and hotels in the area routinely sell out. Boston has over 100,000 college students; if you want a hotel for graduation weekend you should book it 3 years in advance. But in all seriously, if Boston can hardly handle some tens of thousands of graduating students, how will it handle the perhaps 500,000 people who may come to the games? Keep in mind that Boston itself only has about 650,000 people to begin with. Just imagine that doubled, plus commuters for a few weeks. Sounds fun. Most Olympic hosts have somewhere in the 10 million population range, so adding half a million isn't such a huge influx.