No event more holistically demonstrates the emotional and social undercurrents of sport than the Olympics – from Olympism, the movement, the spirit to the competition. Not only does it pull at the heartstrings but also purse strings. With the glitz and glamour of hosting a large international sporting event comes massive expenditures. Not every city – or country for that matter – can afford the multi-million dollar venture, let alone wants to take on the tremendous responsibility. Despite touting positive economic impact and promising legacy programs (read: infusion of jobs and housing, revitalized parks and improved transport), hosting an Olympics can be a resource zap and a money pit (read: traffic flow, cost of venue and transportation). That’s why representatives from Boston 2024 and No Boston Olympics addressed the city’s major concerns in an unprecedented primetime debate on Fox25.
In one corner stood Boston 2024 Chair Steve Pagliuca and U.S. Olympic Committee board member Daniel Doctoroff. In the other was co-chair of No Boston Olympics Chris Dempsey and “Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup” author Andrew Zimbalist.
Whether the debate seemed to reflect “hyperbole” or “drunken optimism,” here are the top five takeaways from the July 23 Olympic debate:
Top 5 takeaways - Boston vs. No Boston Olympics
2. Public support
5. No clear winner
Bostonians want transparency: where’s the money coming from and where’s it going? Who will cover the costs if expenditures go over budget?
More information is always a good thing, and that's why Mayor Martin J. Walsh requested both sides disclose salaries and contributions to their campaigns. Boston 2024 shared all data but NBO refused, saying it was protecting its donors from retribution: “It’s important to protect the little guy,” said Dempsey.
It also took the recent threat of a subpoena for the first version of the host city candidate bid, Bid 1.0, to be released to the general public, sans redactions (Pagliuca moved the date from early next week to July 24). He said the original delay was because “we want to put things out that are right, not just quick.”
Both sides are guilty of withholding information but Boston 2024 is willing to forego confidentiality to give the people what they want, especially in its time of need.
The bid needs to get over 50 percent in Massachusetts “sooner rather than later,” said Doctoroff. Without public support, Boston 2024 will bow out. As it stands, Boston area support remained at 40 percent since last polling but did increase four percent since March. However, statewide support is currently at 42 percent, which is slightly up from 39 percent. That correlates with the unveiling of Bid 2.0 on June 29. It’s clear from this data that it’s going to be a marathon, not a sprint.
The debate suggested the bid committee has a hard sell to prove itself to Massachusetts residents, and specifically to Boston taxpayers. Which is a good thing because it provided an opportunity to identify holes in its arguments and refine them for more fiscally responsible solutions in the future. That subsequently strengthens the case against other major cities like Paris, Rome or Hamburg also vying for 2024.
Bostonians are wary of tax overruns and many believe hosting the Olympics can be a risky venture. In a recent WBUR poll, 75% expect taxpayer funds to foot the bill. And that’s a total game-changer for the community. Dempsey made that clear when he addressed Doctoroff: "You're going back to New York after these Games, and the people of Massachusetts are going to be paying for it." So that’s why Zimbalist and Dempsey adamantly want the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) to reject the International Olympic Committee (IOC) financial guarantee that calls for the host city to backstop any budgetary shortfalls. The Olympic Ballot Coalition filed a petition to get a referendum, which would ban taxpayer spending, excluding transportation projects.
“[Pagliuca] would love to do this with no tax breaks” but Boston 2024 can’t afford to not agree, as its major competitors will take on that added financial responsibility. But to combat that concern, Boston 2024 recently shared the biggest insurance plan in Olympic history. Its policies include $500 million to cover a loss of revenue associated with event cancellation due to major disaster and $350 million for decreased ticket sales if a major competitor drops out of the Games). It released its risk management plan on July 22.
Bostonians want to know: how much of the cost of the Olympics will actually go towards building city infrastructure versus funding the Games? With a $4.8 billion Olympic operating budget, including $775 million devoted to improving the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and local roadways, Boston 2024 positions itself as a significant catalyst in an 18-year economic development project. In addition, Boston 2024 recently updated its operating budget to project a $210 million surplus in private revenue from broadcasting fees, sponsorships, ticket sales and licensing. However, both sides made a case for the projected expenditure: Pagliuca said his numbers were “conservative” while Zimbalist called them “drunken optimism.”
Bostonians want the guarantee that their money is going back into the city for the nine years leading up to it and the decades after, not just for the 17 days of competition. A major sticking point is traffic and how that will impact local businesses. Boston has always struggled with congested roadways and faced MBTA shut downs this past winter due to aging trains. But that doesn't mean taxpayers should resign themselves to such inconvenience. The Olympics can infuse the city with jobs, housing units and positive economic impact.
But Boston 2024 pointed to the trends of previous Olympic Games in the United States, citing a surplus of profits:
However, the flip side of that is that there is no formal inclusion of costs in the budget for schools, fire and police stations, or other necessities if the population flocks into the area. Boston 2024 will have to adjust its figures to account for those necessities.
No clear winner
After the hour-long debate, there was no clear winner. But, it did provide both sides an opportunity to be more transparent about taxes and budgeting in an attempt to gain public support. But what was clear is that there’s a still a lot to be addressed – from the impending referendum to the next round of polling before the September deadline of USOC’s submission of a Candidate City to the IOC.
Watch clips from the #OlympicsDebate.
I remember it like it was yesterday. Donning red, white and blue face paint and in head-to-toe soccer kit, my 11-year-old self watched the U.S. play in the 1999 Women's World Cup opener from one of the last rows in Giants Stadium. Sixteen years later and still as enamored by the Beautiful Game, I cheered on that same team in the 2015 finale, but this time from the second row of BC Place.
After attending both historic moments, and the World Champions ticker tape parade, I reminisced on the weeks since the team hoisted up that World Cup trophy to claim its unprecedented third star. "This is not a once every four years (or 16) phenomenon anymore," I thought. "It’s a revolution." So, what's changed?
Top 5 reasons - 1999 vs. 2015
1) One player, one moment vs. one nation, one team
2) Team vs. individual promotions
3) Gender discrimination vs. discrimination of another kind
4) Inspiring girls vs. inspiring men, women, boys and girls
5) Fall vs. rise of professional league
One player, one moment vs. one nation, one team
In scorching 100-degree heat, 90,185 fans crowded inside the Rose Bowl, perched on the edge of their seats watching the heart-thumping drama. Any shot or miss could be the game-changer. Every moment of play mattered, all the way until the final whistle of double overtime. Then, there were the penalty kicks. As soon as Brandi Chastain's shot hit the back netting, without hesitation she whipped off her jersey and pumped her fists in elation. Her teammates piled on the love, and the biggest match in women's soccer quickly became a part of American history.
Contrast that to this year's edition of the Women's World Cup: the United States scored four goals within the first 16 minutes (including a hat trick from Carli Lloyd, the eventual Golden Ball and Silver Boot winner). Not only were the fans stunned by the result, the players were as well. For the remaining 74 minutes, it just needed to keep its composure and the lead. It coasted to a 5-2 result. The wild excitement for everyone came much sooner than in 1999 so when the game was finally called it was a little anticlimactic. However, what makes 2015 unique is that three players got on the scoreboard and when the game ended, there wasn't just one player to rush. Touting "One Nation. One Team." as the official U.S. Soccer slogan, it quickly became evident that the women unified American soccer supporters.
Team vs. individual promotions
Back in 1999, most promotions consisted of the entire team (or groups of players), like a packaged deal. Headliner Mia Hamm made it a point to include her teammates and to promote the sport through mainstream channels. Contrast that to now when it's reported that Alex Morgan makes over $1 million in endorsements alone with companies like Coca-Cola, GNC, Nationwide Insurance and Mondelez (Chips-Ahoy, Ritz and Trident). It's not easy traveling 23-deep for every photo shoot or appearance, especially when the players come from 12 states and play for nine different clubs. This gives them an opportunity to expand their reach individually but also as a collective.
The real reason for this change perhaps is that the team isn't trying to only push the wholesome girl-next door identity like it had before. That opens up the opportunity for these women to stay true to themselves with unique alliances. For instance, boutique lines Peau du Loup and Wild Fang dress several players in hip clothing and accessories. The diversity of player personalities can be leveraged for maximum reach. It’s especially important to continue this thrilling wave heading into next summer’s Olympic Games in Rio.
Gender discrimination vs. discrimination of another kind
Gone are the days of "women can't play soccer" claims or "you play like a girl" as an intended dis. It was a societal message in 1999: yes women can. Now it’s a sports message: yes women can and we're damn good at it too. It’s no longer an issue of competition quality or fan interest; the conversation shifted from being women to being athletes.
However, the 2015ers were faced with ironically progressive discrimination. The women played on artificial turf, dealt with mediocre referees and received lower prize money. Despite numerous appeals, FIFA utilized artificial turf for the first time in a major tournament – its only explanation was to provide “optimum playing comfort and maximum safety for the players.” But every single men’s tournament has been played on natural grass and so will the upcoming 2018 edition.
Adequate training and frequent exposure to fast-paced, quality competition can elevate the experience level and accuracy of officiating.In an effort to empower, FIFA claims that women’s soccer is a cultural reflection so women should be refereeing women. Which is all well and good unless there’s a shortage of fair and experienced referees. Ever since the 1999 edition, all officials have been women for the women’s tournament but few have really stood out as high caliber decision-makers. Adequate training and frequent exposure to fast-paced, quality competition can elevate the accuracy of officiating. The argument that burgeoning women’s soccer programs can only grow through participation at the highest level suggests the same for refereeing.
The United States women received $2 million in prize money. That’s $6 million less than the United States men got for dropping out in the Round of 16 (and they have never won a World Cup, let alone three). But, back in 1999, there was no such thing as prize money. FIFA didn’t even start distributing it to women until the 2007 edition. And the figure doubled from 2011 to 2015 too. It may be slow but it’s still progress, and discriminatory.
Inspiring girls vs. inspiring men, women, boys and girls
For the first time in 55 years, a woman was honored during a New York City ticker tape parade in Manhattan. Out of 205 total held by NYC, the most recent was the first to celebrate an all-female sports team, of 23 women.
These women aren’t just heroines or pioneers, they are also champions, plain and simple. Society has now accepted them as athletes, rather than second-class citizen female athletes.
Mayor Bill de Blasio addressed the crowd in front of City Hall at the conclusion of Canyon of Heroes: “You can see out there the love that the people of this city and the people of this country have for this team, and what they mean to all of us. You can see it in the faces of men and women, boys and girls. And it was just the purest deepest sense of admiration.”
With 25.4 million viewers tuning into the 2015 finale, USA versus Japan become the most-watched soccer match – male or female – in U.S. history. It’s clear that de Blasio’s sentiment resonated with American sports fans and pulsated across the country: One nation, one team.
Fall vs. rise of professional league
Sixteen years ago, the national team players used their World Cup triumph to leverage a professional league. Due to high demand, the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) launched as the first women’s professional soccer league in the United States, in 2001. It only lasted three years. Now, we are in the third season of the WUSA's second successor, National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). But this time, U.S., Canada and Mexico soccer federations subsidize part of the operating costs.
Now due to the World Cup buzz, NWSL clubs are selling out stadiums and getting airtime on Fox Sports and Time Warner. But, the league still has a long way to go to match its male counterpart Major League Soccer, who has enjoyed 21 years of existence with 10 successful expansion teams. That makes it hard to believe that in 1999, the women had the upper hand in the soccer market. So how will the powers that be leverage the recent progress for a sustainable solution? Check back in 16 years for a Top 5: 2015 vs. 2031.
As I sit riverside in Canada, I wonder why life can't always be this gentle and calm. In stark contrast is the other 51 weeks of the year spent weaving through foot traffic at subway stations, adhering to strict deadlines and frazzled by slowpokes. I thrive off chaos but welcome the serenity when it comes.
I love to go for long walks - partially because I'm nursing a foot injury and can't go for substantial runs anymore - but really because it allows for me to saunter. It reminds me of one day during my freshman fall at Carnegie Mellon. Professor Dr. Scott Sandage didn't show up for class but instead left some form of: "Class won't happen today. But, I ask that you use this time wisely and go saunter" on the blackboard. For this reason, "saunter" has become one of my favorite and most-used words.
To saunter is to walk in a slow, relaxed manner without worry or effort. To Henry David Thoreau, it's much more complicated yet paradoxically simpler than that. To him, it's "the art of walking." The word saunterer can derive from "sainte-terrer," which means a holy leader (someone in search of the holy land) or perhaps, from "sans terre" which means without land or home. Both hit at the notion that those who understand the art of walking have no particular home because everywhere is equally hospitable.
So back in Pittsburgh, during the next meeting, my classmates and I were asked what we learned during our sauntering sessions. Did we notice the bas-relief of Benjamin Franklin on the building we pass every single day? No. Did we hear the birds chirping when otherwise we would only notice students bustling on their way to class? Did we smell the fresh cut grass? Or run our fingers along the uneven surface of the bench that overlooks the tennis courts? Did we even use that time to saunter or did we just go back to the dorms to sleep?
After reading Thoreau's "Walden Pond" and Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Self-Reliance," I became fascinated by their ever-present thoughtfulness and introspective nature. I began to make it a priority to view the world through their eyes and march to the beat of their drummer.
When you stop for a moment, and truly take in your surroundings, you realize how much of life you're missing. It's a sad (initially) but then an uplifting realization. I often get so absorbed by my environment and trapped in my own head that I ignore the senses and what they are trying to tell me. Once you start to acknowledge their power and the influence they have on your life, it opens up so many more opportunities.
Not only can nature be reinvigorating, revitalizing, refreshing, it encourages self-analysis and provides opportunity to evaluate everything in life. When you take the time to take in your surroundings, time seems to slow. Your heart rate begins to drop. Your breathing gets deeper. Your thoughts become more insightful, more appreciative. I can only equate it to the instant gratification after long withdrawal, that sigh of relief, that shot of euphoria.
A friend recently told me that the challenge is not in making a decision, but rather in making that decision actually be realized. How many times have we stood in the same place far too long, just hoping for a sign with a nod of approval to proceed in one direction or another? Far too frequently, unfortunately. And as the wise John Lennon preached, "Life is what happens when you are too busy making plans." It's in the planning that we somehow overlook the doing, the making, the seeing, the experiencing - the actual living. It's not the indecision in finding an optimal solution, regardless of whether it is ideal. It's more the fear of leaving the secure and the familiar for a land of unknowns.
We're primed at an early age to calculate, to know what we want to do the second we can string words together into a coherent sentence. But I always felt many of those who knew they "wanted" to be a lawyer, doctor, dentist, or something else that requires tremendous foresight at such a young age, were just prodded in that professional track because of prestige or tradition. Peer pressure can be a far more powerful and dangerous thing when the wrong motivations permeate thought processes.
For the longest time, I thought I knew my dream job but it wasn't until I got to test drive it that I realized I needed to wake up. It was far from heaven. So far in fact that now I'm back to square one, ashamed to say I don't know what I want to do when I grow up. But after informational interviews with hundreds of people in various roles in various industries, I have come to terms with my ambiguity. Those most successful didn't have a plan logged step-by-step but instead let intuition and opportunity lead the way. It's not luck but strategic placement - and watchful eyes - that make the unforeseeable suddenly seem clear.
They knew the bare minimum - they liked (fill in the blank with any topic), planning events, collaborating with others, telling stories, managing finances, discussing current events. But they didn't know then what that translated to in the professional / corporate world. I highly doubt anyone went to college for a history degree specializing in World War II warfare with the intent to program a TV guide for a major network.
You could speak to a million people and get a million different perspectives. To every question asked, you would receive a million different answers. There's never one and only one correct answer. You could plug in all suggestions into an Excel formula and it'll spit out some statistical pattern but not a fail-proof solution. And that's daunting considering the sample size.
Some people take the more obvious and methodical route while others carve out a more circuitous and chiefly unique path. The twists and turns may not seem direct but each curve provides an entirely new journey in which you learn from experiences. Those ultimately provide different interpretations and reactions that are specific to you and your needs.
It's not a lack of focus, it's a general appreciation for learning and passion for growth. I far more respect those who know their power to be more than something previously defined. I want to do something that I know doesn't exist yet. Why wait for someone to leave before you can fill their shoes? You'll always be compared to the ones before you. You have different skills, experiences, backgrounds, contacts, approaches and opinions that allow you to bring something entirely new to the table.
It's always refreshing to speak to people who value the present over the future. They would rather live paycheck-to-paycheck in order to really be rewarded in life altering interactions and memories - experiences that revolutionize how you view the world and invigorate you in such a way that you're motivated to change the world - someway, somehow.
Those people are not afraid of uncertainty nor do they fear consequence. Maybe that's reckless or stupidly courageous, but I envy them for their strength to overcome what it is that often paralyzes others from moving forward, from tackling those goals that just seem so unrealistic, from acknowledging that failure often begets success. Nobody ever learned from doing it right the first time. Upsets make eventual triumphs so much sweeter. So without having taken the first drive, why assume you'll automatically drown? To live life upstream, you must keep swimming.
And with that, I recently misused a metaphor for the sake of proving a different point - I feel like a sheep, albeit a black sheep, but a sheep nonetheless. I don't cause disgrace upon my family but rather reflect an unusual breed within a common species that sticks out for reasons beyond control, misunderstood by my peers but no way willing to be sheered of the qualities that define me.