The Olympic (shell) games

By ANNE ELIZABETH MOORE  |  September 25, 2009

Franklin Lopez, who lived in Georgia in 1996, is helping coordinate the Olympic Resistance Network’s Media Committee in advance of the Winter 2010 Vancouver Games. He’s holding video workshops, so communities most affected by increased police presence can document events. “It reminds me of Atlanta, when they were basically looking for any excuse to relocate — a nice way of putting it — homeless folks,” he tells me, before launching into a story about Vancouver cops confiscating one man’s belongings while he was in the restroom. Apparently, the criminalization of poverty is not news when there’s a hot ice skater to interview.

In Chicago, homes are being foreclosed upon, unemployment is rising, and neighborhoods slated for Games venues are getting potholes and flowerbeds filled at an unprecedented clip. It seems possible that the 84 percent of the city that doesn’t want to pay for the Olympics — the ones who don’t stand to benefit from redevelopment — could effectively disappear over the next seven years.

2020 foresight
So how far off is Boston 2020? If it moved ahead, Boston 2020 would really begin in earnest in February 2013, when the Bid Book is due to the IOC. Submission of this document initiates a series of private votes that secretly eliminate one city from competition every few months. In October 2013, the IOC will announce the host city for the 2020 Games.

The bill to create the Boston exploratory commission announced in 2007 didn’t make it past the State House or Senate, Republican representative Paul Frost, of Auburn, tells me, and the Chicago bid means other US cities’ Olympic dreams are on ice — for now. Still, Frost thinks a Boston Olympics would be a good idea, because they offer the region a “great marketing opportunity.”

Other area sports enthusiasts agree a Boston Olympics would take the gold.

“That would be very exciting if it happens,” says Smaranda Moisescu, who trains rhythmic gymnasts in Newton. “We have a growing program in a sport that is not well recognized in the United States.”

Kaia Simmons, a recent graduate of Moses Brown High School in Providence and a swimmer who qualified for the Olympic trials last summer, believes the attention would be good for her sport, too. “The Northeast is pretty lacking in pools,” she tells me over the phone. “There are only a few Olympic-sized pools and the facilities are getting old. [The Games] would add new life to the athletic culture of New England.”

Sure, the Olympics would benefit sports in the region. But is Boston willing to pay the price?

We can only hope Mayor Menino is already squirreling away money by the billions — otherwise, we could find ourselves at the bottom of an even Bigger Dig.

Anne Elizabeth Moore is the Chicago-based author of Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity (New Press, 2007). She can be reached via her Web site, anneelizabethmoore.com.

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