BOSTON – Former Masschusetts Gov. Mitt Romney may soon find himself invited back to the State House, this time to offer his expert advice on what it would take to successfully lure and host the 2024 summer Olympics in Greater Boston.
A new state commission created to investigate the feasibility of bidding for the games met for the first time yesterday, an introductory gathering intended to get the ball rolling on an effort to quickly but thoroughly vet the facility, security, housing, transportation and financial resources that would be necessary to host such games.
Romney, who ran the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games before being elected governor, has been separately advising a volunteer group of powerful business leaders in Boston led by Suffolk Construction’s John Fish in their early exploration of an Olympic bid, according to published reports.
Fish, who hosted a delegation of the United States Olympic Committee for two days in October to view potential Olympic sites around Boston, will be appointed by Gov. Deval Patrick to serve on the legislative commission, according to an administration official.
“I’m sure the commission would love to hear from Gov. Romney,” said Sen. Eileen Donoghue, a Lowell Democrat who wrote the bill creating the special legislative commission.
Donoghue said, “I know he has been in touch with the private group who has been looking at this very seriously and we would certainly love to hear from him. I expect that you will see on the agendas in the future an invitation to the governor, depending on his schedule. He has not only a great deal of knowledge about the Commonwealth but something about how to bring the Olympics to a city as he did in Salt Lake so those are experiences that are really, without any exception, something that we need to hear about.”
Eight of the 11 members to serve on the commission have been appointed, and Donoghue expects the full commission to be in place before the commission meets next in the first week of December.
Along with Fish, Gov. Deval Patrick has appointed Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins and is expected to name Steve Freyer, who chaired the Boston Organizing Committee in the 1990s and is involved with Boston 2024.
Senate President Therese Murray appointed Donoghue and Ralph Cox, a consultant with Vickerman and Associates and co-founder of Redgate Real Estate Advisors, while Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, put his legal counsel Jonah Beckley on the commission. Massachusetts Competitive Partnership President Dan O’Connell and Rep. Cory Atkins (D-Concord) will serve as the speaker’s appointees, and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino named Chris Cook, director of arts, tourism and special events at City Hall, and Cindy Brown, the founder of Boston Duck Tours.
House Minority Leader Brad Jones, R-North Andover, also has one appointment to make.
The commission does not have a budget, but has been authorized to raise money through the private sector to cover any expenses, including outside consultants or studies it wishes to commission. Donoghue said O’Connell has expressed confidence that the business community will step up to fill that role.
“It doesn’t cost taxpayers anything to take a look,” she said.
Menino, who is headed to Boston University when his term expires to launch a new Initiative on Cities, earlier this year called the idea of hosting the Olympics in Boston “far-fetched,” but Mayor-elect Marty Walsh seemed far more open to the idea of exploring a bid.
During a post-mortem discussion of the mayoral race this week, former Gov. William Weld said possibility of hosting the 2024 summer games “would be a great one for the mayor to throw some political heft behind.”
“It’s going to be a long time coming, but the name of that game is that we’re going to have to do improvements and lift ourselves up in the City of Boston and create this, create that. It’s a great tone-setter for the city,” Weld said.
Though the commission does not have a formal timeline for making recommendations, Donoghue said “time is of the essence” given that the U.S Olympic Committee would like to whittle down the list of contenders to three sometime next year. Boston was one of 35 cities to receive a letter from the USOC earlier this year to invite them to consider bidding.