Boston’s much-maligned bid to host the 2024 Olympics could now be on life support.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who has backed the city's effort to host the games, said at a press conference Monday that he is not yet ready to sign a contract that leaves taxpayers on the hook for potential cost overruns if the Olympics are more expensive than projected, even if it means losing out on the opportunity to host the games.
“I’m being asked to sign a guarantee. This is a commitment I cannot make,” Walsh said at the press conference, which he called amid reports that the United States Olympic Committee was pressuring him to sign a contract that includes the so-called taxpayer guarantee.
“I’m not signing an agreement that’s going to cost the taxpayers if there are overruns,” he said.
Walsh did not rule out the possibility of signing a contract that includes the guarantee eventually, but both he and Gov. Charlie Baker (R) have remained hesitant to fully back requirements that could shift costs to taxpayers, at least until a commission to analyze the bid's finances and potential impact is complete.
And with the USOC scheduled to meet Monday to discuss the future of Boston's bid, the public hesitation from Walsh could throw the city's effort further into jeopardy little more than a month before the International Olympic Committee deadline to formally submit a proposal.
If Walsh sticks to his position, he may find it impossible to fully back an Olympic bid's requirements.
The taxpayer guarantee, which the IOC requires as part of a bid, has been at the center of the controversy around Boston’s effort since the winter, when grassroots groups like No Boston Olympics and No Boston 2024 began organizing against it.
The groups have highlighted research showing that every Olympics between 1960 and 2012 exceeded initial projections -- by an average of 179 percent, according to the University of Oxford -- to challenge the notion that city and state taxpayers should hand “a blank check” to the USOC, IOC, and Boston 2024, the private group organizing the city’s bid.
With the latest polling showing that a near-majority of state residents oppose hosting the Olympics, Boston 2024 has revamped its proposal. In June, it released an updated $4.6 billion bid that it said would include private financing and an insurance plan to limit potential financial risks.