Boston defends Olympic 'gag order' on city employees

Wed Jan 21, 2015 3:59pm EST
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By Richard Valdmanis

BOSTON (Reuters) - Boston officials on Wednesday defended the city's decision to bar public employees from saying anything negative about the Olympics, a move they called routine for all candidates vying to host the event.

The gag order came to light as boosters of Boston's bid to host the 2024 Summer Games revealed new details of their vision, and opponents concerned about the public cost worked to organize a referendum to block it.

"Mayor (Martin) Walsh is not looking to limit the free speech of his employees," said Laura Oggeri, a spokeswoman for Walsh, referring to a contract Walsh signed with the U.S. Olympic Committee in December banning city employees from criticizing the Olympics or the Olympic committees.

"This was standard boilerplate language... that all applicant cities have historically signed," she said.

The Boston Globe first reported on the contract earlier on Wednesday after obtaining it through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The U.S. Olympic Committee picked Boston earlier this month as the nation's candidate to bid for the Games, choosing the city over Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

If it beats out rivals expected to include Doha, Qatar, Rome, and either Berlin or Hamburg in Germany, Boston would be the first U.S. Olympic host since Salt Lake City in 2002.

Boosters on Wednesday unveiled artist renderings of a temporary Olympic Stadium to be built in Boston's center, and promised the event would be hosted at no public expense while creating long-term jobs.   Continued...

The proposed beach volleyball venue on Boston Common is seen in this handout image made available January 21, 2015 by the Boston2024 group, which is organizing Boston's bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. REUTERS/Boston2024/Handout via Reuters