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Boston 2024 bid officer presents Olympic case at Open Classroom

Photo of sail boats on the Charles River in Boston, MA

At Wednesday's Open Classroom Boston 2024's Erin Murphy explained how hosting the Summer Olympics is a huge economic opportunity for Massachusetts, while also providing incentives for Boston to complete transportation projects like the South Station expansion.

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 CEOof 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.

From left to right, Barry Bluestone, Erin Murphy, and Doug Rubin.

From left to right, Barry Bluestone, Erin Murphy, and Doug Rubin.

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.”

-By Jason Kornwitz

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