Boston 2024 chief bid officer Erin Murphy explained why the city should host the Summer Olympics on Wednesday night at Northeastern, saying that the Games represent a huge economic opportunity for Massachusetts.
Hosting the Games, she noted, would fuel the creation of tens of thousands of good-paying jobs and the construction of thousands of affordable housing units while incentivizing the city to complete transportation projects like the South Station expansion.
“I was initially skeptical of what the Olympics could do for the people of Greater Boston, in particular those who may not be of a certain income level,” said Murphy, who noted that she grew up in a blue-collar family. “But I was hooked when I learned of the plans for the legacy the Olympics would leave, and now I’m convinced that it’s the right thing for the city.”
Murphy discussed her work to bring the Olympics to Boston in 20 West Village F, delivering a slide show presentation to more than 100 students, faculty, and community members. She served as the latest guest speaker in this spring’s Open Classroom Series, which is focused on the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century city. Barry Bluestone—the Russell B. and Andree B. Stearns Professor of Political Economy and the founding dean of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs—is leading the course, which is free and open to the public and campus community.
In his opening remarks, Bluestone explained why he is a strong proponent of Boston’s Olympic bid. “Maybe this is the kind of big, brash, exciting project we need to get people thinking about housing and transportation,” he said, noting that his initial misgivings about the city’s bid were allayed by the former CEO of Boston 2024. “I think this poses both a mammoth challenge and a mammoth opportunity and will give us the ability to think about how we can use this bid to solve real, day-to-day problems in this city.”
A recent WBUR poll of registered voters in the Boston-area found that support for the Boston Olympics has continued to fall since January. On Tuesday, Boston Olympic organizers announced that they would sponsor a statewide referendum on their plan to bring the Games to the city, and would renounce their bid if the majority of voters do not vote in favor of the Olympics on the November 2016 ballot.
The referendum was debated in the Q&A, an hourlong dialogue between attendees and Murphy, Bluestone, and Doug Rubin, the communications adviser to Boston 2024. One of Bluestone’s students asked Rubin whether the Olympic organizers viewed the referendum as an opportunity to wage a campaign to win the “hearts and minds” of potential voters. “The best way to go about this is to spend the next 12 to 18 months meeting in the community, engaging with the public, and building the best bid we can,” he replied. “If we’re sincere about it and work hard with the community, we will have a strong argument to make when we get to the referendum.”
Another attendee asked Murphy and Rubin to expound on Boston 2024’s proposal to build an athletes’ village at the University of Massachusetts Boston, a plan that includes the construction of 8,000 movable housing units for 16,000 Olympians. How, the attendee wanted to know, does this proposal further Boston’s goal of increasing its stock of permanent, low-income housing? “We would leave some housing for students and remove what they don’t want,” Murphy replied. “Then we would place units throughout the city to create affordable housing opportunities for Boston residents.”
Added Rubin: “A lot of organizing committees have turned Olympic villages into too much affordable housing in one area, which floods the markets. We want to learn from that and see if there is a way to take this housing and put it in other parts of the city where it’s needed.”
Yet another question came from a marathon runner, who asked how the bid committee is working to capture the “magic” of the Olympics. Murphy noted that the team is collaborating with scores of athletes, including rowers and speed skaters, to build support for the bid, saying that “the most fun part of my day is when I get to meet the athletes.” “The Olympics,” she added, “is a huge opportunity to elevate sport and to reinforce the power of sport.”