Now that Boston beat out bids from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., to win the nomination for the United States’ 2024 Olympic bid, it’s time to examine how the city would host the games. School of Architecture professor Benjamin Flowers raises questions about cost and the pledge to build a temporary stadium.
Boston is the United States Olympic Committee’s choice to compete for the 2024 Summer Games.
A key element of the winning proposal is to build something never seen at the Olympics before: a “temporary” 60,000-seat stadium that will disappear once the games are over. Boston 2024, the private group behind the bid, promised not to leave the city with an empty stadium, the white elephant haunting many former host cities.
At first blush, a temporary stadium calls to mind a provisional and lightweight structure — one easy to assemble and disassemble on-site. However, it is difficult to imagine how such a project could safely accommodate 60,000 people and meet all of the attendant services and other requirements the International Olympic Committee demands of Olympic Venues.
Instead, it seems that Boston 2024 is actually proposing to build a fully realized stadium for 60,000 at a likely cost of $1 billion. Making matters worse, this stadium will be razed after less than a month of use.
This temporary stadium responds to two recent developments: first, increased scrutiny and criticism of the spiraling costs of hosting the Olympics. And second, changes to IOC standards for Olympic bids that emphasize the need for venues to address ecological and socio-economic concerns. This was intended to assuage, in part, concerns about legacy uses for multi-billion-dollar structures purpose-built for the Olympics but without clear future uses.
It is hard to imagine how construction and demolition of a $1 billion stadium is in any way more ecologically or economically thoughtful or socially responsible than the white elephant parade to be found in Athens or Beijing, where very expensive structures sit and decay with little or nothing happening within them.
We need to ask how building a monumental urban stadium only to demolish it represents a step forward.
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