more stars than in the heavens

not in our stars, but in ourselves

An open letter to the IOC, the USOC, and the City of Boston


Dear fellas,

Have you lost your goddamn minds?

Contrary to the wishes of basically everyone who actually lives and/or works here, Boston is officially the U.S. Olympic Committee’s bid to host the 2024 Olympics.   Nobody asked us.  It was never put to a vote.  Mayor Marty Walsh is all upset about building casinos in Everett, even though the public voted to allow it, but he’s had a hard-on for the Olympics for ages.

And let me repeat: nobody wants it.  Nobody.  Here are some links for you:

You get the idea.

It’s not that we aren’t proud of our city; contrary to what those cunts in New York seem to think, we are actually certain that we’re the greatest city on the East Coast, if not in the entire United States of America. (P.S. Yankees suck.) It’s not that we’re afraid we can’t do it.  Of course we can.  Fuck you.  We can do everything.  But we shouldn’t do this.

To summarize the points made in the above linked articles, and in the #NoBoston2024 hashtag that’s been spreading across our little corner of Twitter in the past 24 hours or so, we don’t want the Olympics because it would be a mess.  The Powers That Be (construction companies, university presidents, politicians whose palms have surely been greased) claim that Boston is a great choice because we can do this cheaply.  We have so many universities, all with great facilities, and we can just use those!  Dorms for housing the athletes?  No sweat!  They can stay at Harvard, at BU, at MIT, at Northeastern – no worries, no problem, this will be fine.

Except for the fact that, oops, we don’t have an Olympics stadium.  We don’t have an aquatics center.  We don’t have a fucking velodrome.  We will have to build a LOT of shit to make this work – and now that we’ve been nominated, we’re going to start – and there’s just no way for that not to be a huge mess.  If you haven’t been to Boston, let me tell you about it: it’s old, and it’s packed.  Most of the development happening in the city is very much for the rich and mighty.  Neighborhoods for working class people, people of color, immigrants, etc., are being gentrified at a merciless rate.  Those people are being pushed farther and farther out from the city proper – if they can afford to move.  Some can’t.  There are a lot of homeless people in this city; perhaps no more than any other major city, but certainly too many, and it almost certainly has something to do with the pro-business/anti-human development that’s been happening for decades.  But hey, why focus on something as politically unsexy as revitalizing neighborhoods for people who actually live here?  Why not build a velodrome instead?  Priorities!

Apparently, one of the big selling points in Boston’s bid was that we’re such a small city that people will be able to get to any and all Olympics events by walking or taking public transportation.  I will address the latter point momentarily, but first: walking?  You think the kinds of people who can afford to fuck off to Boston for a three-week long holiday, from wherever in the world, are going to WALK?  Like COMMONERS??  No.  No way.  Let me tell you something about people who are wealthy enough to spend weeks in a hotel in a foreign city: they are lazy.  They are accustomed to purchasing whatever they want, whenever they want it.  They will drive or be driven.  This isn’t just my misanthropic take – this is something I’ve witnessed firsthand, as someone employed to bow and scrape to such people.  I used to work at a store in one of Boston’s big shopping tourist traps for a couple of years, and then (some years later) at an ESL school in Cambridge.  While there were plenty of nice customers, there were scores of clueless and lazy ones, too.  The ESL school, for instance, offers students the option of living in dormitories or with host families.  The housing coordinator has to explain to students from certain countries that in America, no middle-class home has a maid, and no one will pick up after them, or cater to their every whim.  It’s a cultural difference, and also a class difference: if they’re rich enough to come here, they’re rich enough to lift nary a finger on their own behalf.  Some of them managed to assimilate just fine, and use the T or ride a bike like the rest of the hoi polloi, but there were definitely students who took taxis everywhere – or, if they were really obscenely wealthy – simply bought a car.  My point is this: tourists who come for the Olympics will still congest the city with cars, on roads that – quite famously – are not suitable for people who haven’t grown up with the nightmare logic of Boston streets.


Now, about that public transportation.  Last year, Boston ran an article positing that the only way the MBTA will be fixed is if we somehow managed to get in the running for the Olympics.  Basically, the T is in dire financial straits, and can’t afford to overhaul its antiquated tracks/trains/signals/switches, even though most of that infrastructure is at least 30 years old.  While that’s not ancient in transportation terms, it’s still towards the end of its life cycle – and it’s the entire system.  Trains break down every day.  There are track problems, switch problems, signal problems.  Yesterday, a brake pad was stuck to a wheel on the Orange Line, and it filled North Station with smoke – not exactly a reassuring occurrence.  The Green Line consists of four different branches – B to Boston College, C to Cleveland Circle, D to Riverside, and E to Heath Street – all of which travel underground in downtown Boston.  If a train from one of those branches dies at Arlington, say, it ruins the inbound and outbound commutes for all branches.  I mean, you get the idea, and I’ve complained about it before.  It’s a mess.  It does need fixing.  And the MBTA itself can’t or won’t figure out how to spend the money to do it.  So where does that leave us?  It leaves us with a Faustian bargain: “Sure, sure,” says some ruthless construction company, “we’ll help you fix your public transportation – but you have to try to host the Olympics.” Because there would be a deadline, the project would have to be done in a more or less timely manner; if we allow things to continue as they’ve been going, the T will just roll over and die of old age someday.

One of the big movers and shakers behind this Boston 2024 bid has been the head of Suffolk Construction, John Fish.  An op-ed from (the unfortunately titled) asks who he is.  Let’s read, shall we?  I’ll bold the important parts, don’t worry.

The rhetorical opening line “Who is John Galt” to Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged which provides the basis for much right wing dogma today is appropriate for examining the Boston2024 movement to bring the Olympics to Boston. In the story, America is in decline, the people are unappreciative ‘looters’, the bureaucrats and politicians are completely corrupt, and the institutions of the country are inept. Rand suggests that the only people that can save the world is a tiny group of individualist industrialists who decide to leave society behind and start a utopian commune led by John Galt in the mountains. This fictional book has been cited by none other than social budget cutting congressman and Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan as inspiration.

So who is John Fish? A prominent, successful and giving citizen. In fact he has given well over $100,000 personally in campaign contributions. But he is no Ayn Randian ideologue, instead he would appear to be more an opportunist who completely understands how the pay to play system works here in Massachusetts. How else do you explain multiple maximum contributions of $5000 to both the State Democratic committee and the State Republican committee? Maximum contributions to 3 of the 4 Boston city councilors at large? Contributions to such disparate politicians as Mitt Romney and Diane Wilkerson? Call me naive, but perhaps this money is why no elected officials have come out publicly against this privatization of a civic responsibility, or at least had the fortitude to ask what the fiscal responsibility of their constituents will be.

Funny enough, on a superficial level both Atlas Shrugged and the Boston2024 movement are about fixing the trains! The book’s heroine Dagny Taggart strives in an Olympian manner to believe in the system and keep the trains running before succumbing to the premise that American society is doomed to fail unless we deify and free the elitist industrialists. Cynically, the only promise that Mr. Fish seems to make to Massachusetts society is that if we trust him with an undisclosed amount of our money, he will get the MBTA trains upgraded, built and running sooner than we the people through our institutions of democratic government would otherwise get them.

As has been studied in detail, every recent Olympics held in a Western country has had massive cost over runs, false promises to its hosts, and local citizens left to pay for the consequences for years or decades after. The lost opportunity cost of that money being spent on true civic institutions like schools, job training, parks, and needed infrastructure is immense. Of course, the short term opportunities to connected builders and politicians is immense as well, with large contracts and jobs and front row seats to the connected, all paid by ‘We the People’.

[…Closed] door meetings of connected industrialists with government officials and private institutions, no public process, lack of disclosure, and secret bids with a dubious International organization sounds like the kind of bad fiction that the citizens of an educated state should not buy to fix what ails them. When John Fish and the politicians put the following non-fiction in writing: “The citizens of Massachusetts will pay no expenses for bringing the Olympics to Boston” I will begin to believe they are smarter and better than the good people of London, Athens, Vancouver, etc. Until then, Ayn Rand, no cost Olympics, and trickle down economics will stay on the fictional side of my library.

Any time you can draw an apt comparison between the hero of an Ayn Rand book and a real person, stay the fuck away from that real person.  Fish has been the chairman of the “private” group gunning to get Boston to host the Olympics.  He claims that his company won’t do any Olympics work, but that is certain to be bullshit.  He stands to profit handsomely from the ramp-up in building that we’re now obligated to undertake.  Whether by taking on every non-Olympics construction project in the city when all the other companies are too busy performing major restorative surgery on the T, or by being contracted to do work that “other” companies officially signed for, he’s going to have some fat pockets as a result of all this.  It won’t be fat with private investors’ money, or with universities’ money.  It will be from the thirty-year mortgage we poor Massholes were slapped with – without so much as a ballot question.

In short:

No Boston 2024.  No, no, no.  Give it to Berlin again – they were distracted last time.  Or, better yet: just build two permanent Olympic “cities,” one for summer and one for winter, and stop disrupting normal people’s lives.  We just want to watch it on TV.  Anyone who wants front-row seats can hop on a plane and check it out.  The rest of us will settle for working public transportation.


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This entry was posted on January 9, 2015 by and tagged , , , , , .
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