Olympic opportunity worth pursuing

FILE - In this Jan. 6, 2012 file photo, the Boston city skyline is illuminated at dusk as it reflects off the waters of Boston Harbor. The U.S. Olympic Committee picked Boston on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015, as its bid city for the 2024 Summer Games. The city will be presented to the International Olympic Committee for a vote in 2017. Rome also is in the bidding, along with Hamburg or Berlin, Germany. France and Hungary also are considering bids. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

You have to love us.

“Us” as in Greater Bostonians, New Englanders, ancestors of Puritans, rabid sports-are-more-important-than-God fans or whatever you want to call us.

We vote the ballot box, as a whole, very liberally for those open-minded fellows (and ladies), who aren’t afraid to both speak their minds, stand up for those struggling, and open to making tough decisions for the betterment of everyone.

The definition of “liberal,” which we are as a region, is: “Open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values.”

But then something comes along, something scary (I admit), something bigger than anything we could ever imagine, and the initial reaction is “No way!” or “Not in our house!”

The United States Olympic Committee voted to support Boston, and it’s surrounding communities, to win the 2024 Olympics.

I get it. The sentiment of the Olympics possibly coming to Boston is that it would be The Big Dig on steroids. And we know how The Big Dig was handled by builders, politicians, agencies and, well, us. It was a big, big, big headache.

We did what we do best -- we complained. And then we complained some more.

We used to hear similar complaints about the marathon and jokes of skinny runners taking over “our” city, but those have now subsided, particularly after the terrorist bombing.

The early stories/opinion pieces following yesterday’s decision by the USOC to back Boston -- over San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, D.C. -- is that “we” are already a world class city and don’t need an event like this to prove our mettle on the world stage.

It’s not true.

Sure, we are a great city/region, with great history and events. In America, the Boston region is king when it comes to history.

Despite that history, our investment in tourism ($10.9 million in 2013), which ranks 24th nationally, just behind states like Tennessee ($11.7M), Missouri ($11.6M), Alabama ($11.6M) and just ahead of Oklahoma ($10.7M).

Did you know that South Dakota spends 10 percent more than we do, at $12.2 million?

Does that sound world class, being aggressively outspent by South Dakota? What ever happened to “Make it in Massachusetts”?

In terms of infrastructure -- buildings, trains, roads, power supplies, etc. -- we are even more behind. While we rank very high in brains and top-notch talent, our facilities don’t cut it. I could bore you with a few studies ranking the top 100 infrastructure projects around the world, with Boston and Massachusetts not even getting a sniff.

There are other issues, like the cost. Will it kill us, financially, like it killed Athens? I guess it could.

But with 10 years to plan -- Boston has 2 1/2 years to win the International Olympic Committee’s approval in 2017 -- do you think we have the people in place in Greater Boston to make this happen.

I do.

Olympic cities Montreal, Athens and Sydney all were noted for their financial meltdowns after the “Games” left town, with poor planning the biggest fault. On the other hand, London, which is probably the city most like Boston in its people (conservative when it comes to change, but vote liberal) and its landscape (new and old buildings, country-side close by) was a big success.

In a recent report on infrastructure, KMPG, one of the largest professional services companies in the world and one of the Big Four auditors, had this to say about the recent Sochi, Russia Games: 

“Despite costing an estimated $51 billion, the Sochi Olympic Park in Russia expects to continue attracting tourists and investors. There is no doubt that Sochi has boosted Russia’s global profile, and the park’s legacy will be extended with facilities redeveloped to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup and future Formula 1 races. A majority of the investment was procured from state-owned banks, and despite cost-overruns and concerns that some new infrastructure was not ready ahead of the Games, the judges considered the overall event to be a success for both the International Olympic Committee and Russia.”

That’s enough of boring economics lectures. How about this: Let’s be open to what the Olympics could possibly do for our region, maybe make us a global power?

The U.S. believes it is due an Olympic Games very soon and the fact that the USOC chose Boston should not be taken lightly.

You can e-mail Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.

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