The Huffington Post
In our modern world it seems that we are constantly buffeted with negative news. Too often, the “bright spots” that we are taught to focus on as children seem few and far between. Maybe that is why billions of people around the world look forward to the Olympic Games every four years. And maybe that is why the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games television broadcast is the most viewed event during the Games.
The Opening Ceremony is a snapshot of the world as it could be: thousands of young people from around the globe peacefully coming together for sport, and in doing so celebrating our common humanity. Imagine walking into an Opening Ceremony stadium and knowing that you are part of something bigger than yourself, your sport, or your team. You are part of the world. It is amazing.
I’m a four-time Olympian and a member of the International Olympic Committee, so it’s fair to say that the Olympic movement is near and dear to me. But not just because of the inspiring Opening Ceremony and for reasons that far exceed the medals I have helped earn representing Team USA on four ice hockey teams. It’s the way the Games unify us and the values they remind us of: friendship, respect for others, and excellence — all through the prism of sport. And sport is something that most people on earth, regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, ideology, or otherwise can relate to, and it explains the enduring interest in the Olympic Games. Sport, a universal language, helps us understand human triumphs and failures, and through it, the human condition.
As much as the values of the Olympics (known as Olympism — a word meant to express the deeply embedded beliefs of the Olympic movement) have stayed the same, the Games themselves are evolving just as societies do. And the Olympics are evolving now more so than ever with the recently launched reforms called Olympic Agenda 2020. It is the brainchild and vision of IOC president Thomas Bach.
After collecting over 40,000 public submissions from people in more than 200 countries, this highly collaborative process was distilled to 40 detailed Olympic Agenda 2020 recommendations that serve as a strategic roadmap for change and for the future of the Olympic movement. The recommendations are built around three primary themes: sustainability, credibility and youth.
Overall, the goal of the 40 recommendations is to reduce the overall cost of hosting and operating the Olympic Games, and to encourage a sustainable and long-lasting legacy of the Games in the host nation and beyond. That’s why, after a decades-long absence, it’s time for the U.S. to unite to bring the Games back to our country. Boston has already been selected by the U.S. Olympic Committee to represent the U.S. to bid on the 2024 Summer Games. As a board director of the United States Olympic Committee, I raised my hand for Boston and continue to feel that Boston is a perfect choice. So much about the city today and where it’s headed in the future already aligns with the vision of Olympic Agenda 2020 and will put this refreshed view of the Games in action.
When people ask me, “Why Boston?” my answer always starts with the intellectual prowess and natural curiosity that comes from Boston’s educational centers. I earned my B.A. and M.B.A in Boston, along with the 250,000 students — including a large share from around the world (there are over 50,000 international students in Massachusetts) — who descend on the city to attend one of the over 100 universities and colleges in the area. Think about it: the world already sends its brightest and best young people to Boston to learn; and in return, the city’s culture benefits from this influx of youth, intelligence and aspiration. It is a heady mix and it makes Boston unique.
For the Boston 2024 Partnership, sustainability is already core to the framing of the Olympic bid. In fact, Boston wouldn’t even be bidding on the Games if it weren’t for the opportunity to integrate planning for the Games with the City of Boston’s long-term vision for the city’s future. The Boston 2024 planning for the Olympic and Paralympic Games is refreshingly practical. It is not changing the city simply to accommodate the Games. It is ensuring the Games are woven into the fabric of the city by relying on existing venues, building temporary ones and partnering with officials and developers to plan for the days and years after the Games. This is a profound difference in planning for Olympic and Paralympic Games. All of this is good for Boston and good for the IOC because it showcases how a great city in a western democracy can prudently and responsibly host an Olympic Games while leaving tangible, sustainable long-term legacies for all of its citizens to share into the future.
As appealing is Boston’s size: a city that mirrors the quaintness of an intimate village — walkable, waterfront and easily accessible from many points. I’ve trained in Boston for the Olympics, been educated in Boston as a student, and have returned over the years as a citizen. I love Boston for its beauty, for its people, for its love of sports and for its manageable living. All of which makes this city ideal to host an Olympic Games.
Boston also offers unprecedented opportunities to transform the athletes’ experience. Because of widely distributed venues and travel times at some past Games, many athletes’ Olympic experiences were limited only to their rooms in the Olympic Village, or in travel to and from their competition venues. Boston 2024 wants to change all of this. The City of Boston will be the Olympic Park and all athletes, along with their families, will be able to experience all aspects of the city itself as part of the 2024 Olympic celebration. Boston will put the athletes at the heart of the Games.
Finally, Boston offers the Olympic movement an opportunity to bring the Games back to America for the first time since 2002. The United States has been a stalwart partner of the Olympic movement since the first edition of the modern Games in 1896 in Athens. In fact, the first gold medal won at those Games was by Bostonian James Connolly.
The Olympic and Paralympic Games are magical. For athletes, competing in your home country is a breath-taking experience. For the communities that host the Games, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity creates civic pride that endures for years to come, as well as creating human and physical legacies that endure years after the Games are over. My hope is for Boston to have this hometown advantage. I am confident that Boston will create a new model for hosting the Olympic Games by tapping into the best and brightest young minds from around the world, making Olympic Agenda 2020 come alive through the unprecedented, innovation-based educational resources that reside within the city.
The Olympic movement is changing, and it needs great change agents. Boston, I believe in you. We are in this with you. It’s time for America to unite around the true opportunity of Boston and its promise to the world as a potential host city of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.