After spending 10 days in Arizona, then returning to an angst-ridden city at a seeming halt, here’s one debate that’s been even further cemented.
There is no way in hell that Boston should host the Olympics.
From one coast to the other, Super Bowl week elicited a litany of observations and reasons why the city’s pursuit of the 2024 Summer Games is a foolhardy bout of absurdity.
While the Phoenix area put on an Olympic-sized event in the days leading up to last Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks, the Hub’s Olympic committee must have put on a crooked smile for the public, one unable to maneuver the metro area not only thanks to record snow, but a crippled transportation system that had anyone with even a shred of patience asking the same question.
“You really, truly think this would work? Here?”
It’s up for grabs which one many Bostonians would rather see melt first: the 40.2 inches of snow that fell over a seven-day period last week, or Boston2024’s misguided dream of hosting the Olympics here in nine years. The Olympic boosters will, of course, argue, that the record snowfall is an outlier that won’t impact their summer plans, but if the weather did more than put a wrench into the backs of shovelers from Hull to Hyannis. It also deflated any semblance of hope that the MBTA can handle an event of such magnitude.
“We’re not bidding on the Winter Olympics, we’re bidding on the Summer Olympics,” Richard Davey, chief executive of the local Olympic organizing group, Boston 2024, told the Globe. “In July of 2024, neither will be a problem.”
Right. That mindset was difficult to believe in July, 2014, never mind the inadequacy witnessed to begin February, 2015.
Thanks to growing snowbanks throughout the region, the gridlock got so bad on Wednesday - when commuters and Patriots fans heading into the city for the Super Bowl champs parade discovered a harrowing traffic situation, even by Boston’s standards - that MBTA general manager Beverly Scott actually told customers to stay away.
“Quite candidly, if you don’t wind up having to use the service, that probably is a plus,” she said. “I’m just going to be candid. I’ve never said that in my life, but I don’t want to wind up misleading anyone.”
That is unprecedented. Points for honesty, but how can anyone in their right frame of mind take that statement and just assume Boston will indeed have a competent transportation system in line by the time it comes to light the Olympic torch?
Meanwhile, Phoenix began cleaning up from its moment in the sun - even if there was a decided lack of it in an uncharacteristically wet desert during the days leading up to the game - earlier this week. An estimated 100,000 Seahawks and Patriots fans descended upon the region in time for the Super Bowl, many of whom flocked to a 12-block area downtown that comprised of the NFL Experience, various concerts, and other interactive attractions over a five-day period. USA Today’s Christine Brennan compared the sprawling area, closed off to traffic since the previous weekend’s Pro Bowl, also played at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, to similar street-fair celebrations she had witnessed at the Olympics at Salt Lake in 2002 and Vancouver in 2010.
“Arizona is known for being able to host mega-events,” Jay Parry, host of the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee, said last week. “We’re an expert at it.”
Well, yes and no.
The Phoenix area’s sprawling location worked well in being able to host a number of events in various locations, and the downtown area proved it could handle the amount of visitors on any given night, despite the traffic and dearth of public parking. But accommodations were not as plentiful as you might imagine, leaving a segment of media and fans in one otherwise fine hotel that was placed as if an oasis at the outscores of Sky Harbor Airport in a scene that resembled something out of “Breaking Bad.”
Within a one-mile radius were run-down motels, pawn shops, strip clubs, and a nondescript correctional facility, a few doors down from Bill Johnson’s Big Apple BBQ joint, a “Hilltop-style” institution which thrives despite its surroundings. It probably wasn’t the type of area the Super Bowl committee hoped visitors would tell tales of upon their return home.
Phoenix had three years to get ready for last week’s Super Bowl, yet the city’s preparedness was a cause for concern for some NFL officials, who reportedly grumbled about noticeable unfinished business. An incomplete, giant mural of the Lombardi Trophy adorning the side of the Bank of America Tower became a running joke in the days following our arrival. Tree removal service had to be called into the city’s streets the day before the central area opened in order to take care of excess branches that were blocking way for the dozens of corporate pavilions invading the area.
Granted, the Super Bowl is much less of an undertaking than the Summer Olympics, but Phoenix still had three years to accomplish what it set out to do as a host city, giving it a little bit of Olympic fever in the process.
“If we could be considered as an Olympic city, I think that would be fantastic. I’d love to take that on as soon as we’re ready for it,” Parry said. “I think we’re well-suited to it. We’ve got great public and private collaboration, and that really positions us well for all these mega-events going forward.”
They can have them.
Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee officials said they expected a $500 million boost to the economy as a result of hosting the Super Bowl, but when Glendale hosted the Super Bowl in 2008, the city estimates it lost $1.6 million, according to Fox Business, and this year had to afford many upfront costs, including an additional $2.1 million in additional security, which was in a notable lockdown mode in the hours leading to kickoff.
“The Super Bowl is going to benefit our city, the region and the state of Arizona,” Mayor Weiers told FOX Business Network. “The money that’s paid upfront for public safety costs has been my complaint.”
What would the cost possibly be in Boston for a two-week, international event?
That wouldn’t even begin to account for the delays and frustrations that added security would create in Boston, a city more cramped and far differently configured than Phoenix. Then there’s the public transportation. The Valley Metro transportation system covers a wide swath of land from Glendale to Mesa and Scottsdale, and both bus and rail provide more than 90 percent efficiency on-time rates for much of its month-to-month performance. In 2014, only the Blue Line saw an on-time efficiency of more than 90 (93) percent, with bus lines and the silver line taking up the rear (71 percent).
But the antiquated T system showed its true colors over the past week-plus, and they are simply not those of one prepared for an Olympic-sized problem.
Will they be in nine years? It depends on whom you decide to believe.
But if the expansive Phoenix had some level of difficulty hosting a Super Bowl, why the hell is concentrated Boston even in the discussion with the Lords of the Rings?
No. Even more so now, the answer should just be, “No.”