Communications Lessons from Boston’s Olympic Bid

If you don’t live in MA, you may not know that there was a bid to host the 2024 Olympics in Boston, MA. The bid was accepted buy the IOC, but lack of support in MA lead to it ultimately being withdrawn.

A great article that gives a timeline of what happened is Let’s Get Our Facts Straight With Boston 2024.

Last Tuesday, I attended Communications Network of Boston, “Lessons from Boston’s Olympic Bid”.

It was a very interesting night!

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From right to left in the photo above –

Moderator: Lauren Dezenski of Politico (formerly Dorchester Reporter)

Panelists: Chris Dempsey of No Boston Olympics
Robin Jacks of NoBoston2024
Steve Koczela of MassINC Polling
Eric Reddy of the Boston 2024 Organizing Committee

It was great to have both sides of the issue represented.

Chris Dempsey pointed out that they were able to take a reactive approach easier the the organizing committee could since “we had less people needing to approve our actions – we could act quickly.”

Chris described the origin of No Boston Olympics as “No one was in a position to stop the games, so we formed. News outlets paid attention to us because conflict is more interesting than agreement.”

Robin Jacks has past experience as an Occupy protester and NoBoston2024 took a more adversarial approach. They were able to use the freedom of information act to make organizing committee records public.

On working with Robin, Chris said, “We wanted Robin to join us originally, but we’re glad NoBoston2024 stayed as a separate group with their own tactics. Both were needed for success.”

Steve Koczela of MassINC Polling commented, “the public didn’t know there were 2 opposition groups.” Opposition in Boston was always high – and the snow made people who ride the T daily more likely to oppose the Olympic games.

Eric Reddy of the Boston 2024 Organizing Committee said “We were a big ship – that takes time to turn.” “We tried to be as transparent as possible but we were still competing with other cities for the Olympic bid.” “The bid was always meant to be a rough idea but the public took it as gospel.” “We didn’t communicate well that the bid documents weren’t final because the IOC required secrecy.”

Chris Dempsey agreed with Eric calling it “The boosters dilemma.” “The public wanted one thing but the IOC required otherwise.” “At first, we were reluctant to talk about the taxpayer guarantee. Then, we realized that the IOC required it.”

Steve Koczela added, “It seemed like the ship had already sailed when the public found out.” “The main benefit of hosting the Olympics wasn’t clearly communicated.”

Robin Jacks said, “We had ‘no’ in our name but instead we talked about what we wanted for Boston.”

Chris Dempsey also talked about how No Boston Olympics brought signs to a public meeting on the Boston Olympic bid. They were the only ones with signs, so it looked like the whole crowd was opposed and the media used that image often.

The final question of the night asked if Boston just likes to say no to all new events, and “If the Boston Marathon were new and proposed today, would you support it.”

Robin said, “We’re not just naysayers to everything. We’re saving lives.”

Chris said, “Boston is good at building traditions. Even the Boston Marathon started small and built to were it is today.”

Robin closed with “You can’t make people love something. We have to grow to love it on our own.”

All the panelists agreed that there was no time to “grow to love” the Olympics in Boston.

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2 thoughts on “Communications Lessons from Boston’s Olympic Bid

  1. Really interesting! It’s definitely good that they did this debriefing so that we could as a community learn from the experience and make a better approach to similar situations moving forward. Maybe if we get the T in better shape the Olympics could someday be a possibility!

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