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Boston Out as Mayor Balks at Crony-Capitalism Olympics: ‘I Cannot Commit to Putting the Taxpayers at Risk’

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who had previously supported the idea of hosting the 2024 Olympics, has gone cold on the prospect, concerned that the city will be left on the hook for cost overruns.

The United States Olympic Committee killed the bid on Monday as a result of Boston balking at picking up the extra tab after expected expenditures on stadiums and infrastructure. Boston bailing opens the process to other American cities but more likely closes any opportunity for a U.S. city to host the 2024 summer games.

On Monday, Walsh called a press conference at which he stated, “This is a commitment that I cannot make without assurances that Boston and its residents will be protected. We have met every demand and every challenge, but I cannot commit to putting the taxpayers at risk. If committing to singing a guarantee today is what’s required to move forward, then Boston is no longer pursuing the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

In March, Walsh said, “Make no mistake, we are in this to win it: to bring the Olympic Games to Boston, along with the immense global investment and community benefits that come with it.”

Walsh said he was still unsure whether the city could indemnify itself with insurance; he is waiting for the head of the city’s Olympic planning office to examine an insurance package released by Boston 2024 last Thursday. Walsh added, “We are unable to conclude our analysis without knowing the full scope of risk contained within the guarantee of the 2024 games. I refuse to mortgage the future of the city away, I refuse to put Boston on the hook for overruns, and I refuse to commit to signing a guarantee that uses taxpayers dollars to pay for the Olympics.” ESPN reported Walsh said he would not sign any document “that puts one dollar of taxpayer money on the line for one penny of overruns on the Olympics.”

Walsh said his remarks were triggered by reports and “rumors” that the United States Olympic Committee wanted Boston to cover costs for the Games. He would prefer to implement a liability cap, but he argued that pressure from the USOC gives him no time to do so before he makes his decision, asserting, “If we had another month, we possibly could, but the rumors I keep hearing by reading the papers of some of the USOC board members coming out in their statements, they concern me.”

The USOC also pressures Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, who has remained neutral on the issue. He told USOC officials on a conference call Monday morning that he will wait to make a decision until he hears from the Brattle Group, which is examining Boston 2024’s bid. Public support has hovered around 40%; a voter referendum has been floated for 2016. The leaders of Boston’s bid have said if the public votes against the bid, they would abandon their effort.

Anita L. DeFrantz, a member of the USOC and the International Olympic Committee, told the Boston Herald, “We need to know how [Boston] is doing and if the people of the city are interested in hosting the games. We need to get a report. I need to know.”

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