June 29, 2015 / 1:34 PM / in 2 years

Backers of Boston Olympics forecast operating surplus

BOSTON (Reuters) - Backers of Boston's controversial bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games unveiled a revised plan for the Games on Monday that they said would run a $210 million operating surplus, addressing concerns the event would leave city taxpayers on the hook.

The forecast operating budget of $4.595 billion excludes hefty capital costs including an estimated $2.8 billion to build an Olympic Village for housing athletes and a $1.2 billion temporary stadium that would host athletics events as well as the opening and closing ceremonies and then be disassembled and converted to parkland.

"This could be the largest economic development opportunity in our lifetimes ... in Boston," said Steve Pagliuca, a private equity executive who serves as the chairman of Boston 2024. "This is going to bring a lot of jobs and a lot of housing and a lot of great things to region."

The bid follows the International Olympic Committee's recommendations intended to reduce the costs of hosting the Games and envisions a $210 million operating surplus, said Pagliuca, an executive with Bain Capital and co-owner of the Boston Celtics who was brought in to lead the group in May.

The recommendations followed record costs for the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing and the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, on which Russia spent some $50 billion.

Massachusetts officials have committed to holding a voter referendum on the games in November 2016, a date chosen to coincide with the typically high voter turnout seen in presidential elections. Backers have said they would not go forward if the bid does not win majority support.

The International Olympic Committee is to choose a host city in 2017.

The budget includes $128 million for insurance to cover any cost overruns, Pagliuca said.

Many in Boston have been skeptical that the Olympics could be staged at such low cost. Polls show residents believe city taxpayers would be left paying for parts of the event, despite assurances by organizers and the city's mayor, Marty Walsh, that they would not.

No Boston Olympics, a group that formed to oppose the bid, said it remained concerned about the cost.

"There are still a lot of unanswered questions," said Kelley Gossett, one of the group's co-chairs. "We still don't know what their plan is if things don't go according to plan and that lands on the taxpayers."

In a poll released this month by WBUR radio, 49 percent of the 502 state residents surveyed said they opposed holding the Games in Boston, compared with 39 percent who supported it.

Boston's rivals in seeking to host the 2024 Games include Paris, Rome and Hamburg, Germany.

The new Boston plan calls for some events including basketball, baseball and soccer to be held at existing stadiums elsewhere in the northeastern United States, Pagliuca said.

"You have to remember we're representing America, not only Boston," he told reporters at a conference center where organizers plan to hold Olympic boxing matches.

Backers initially pitched a "walkable" Games with most events in the city but now are calling for more sports outside the city, including soccer in the New England Patriots' stadium 25 miles (40 km) south of Boston and sailing in New Bedford, some 54 miles (87 km) to the south.

Still, the average event would occur within a 5.7-mile (9.1-kilometer) radius of the athlete's village, far closer than the 42.9-mile (69-kilometer) radius of the 2012 London games but larger than the 5-mile (8-kilometer) radius expected in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, said David Manfredi, the event's chief architect.

Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Susan Heavey, Mohammad Zargham and Bill Trott

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