March 13, 2015 / 9:59 PM / 4 years ago

USOC unconcerned about drop in support for Boston bid

(Reuters) - Celebration has given way to concern among Bostonians as the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) on Friday went about the business of shoring up support for the U.S. city bidding to host the 2024 Olympics.

Boston was unveiled as the surprise choice over two-time host Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington in January and enthusiasm for staging an Olympics has eroded dramatically since then.

A poll last month found more Boston residents opposed to the Games than for hosting them.

Results of the survey, conducted Feb. 12-15 and reported in the Boston Globe, indicated 46 percent of Boston-area residents against the bid.

That represents a significant drop from a January poll that had 51 percent supporting the bid and 33 percent against.

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun admitted he would like to see stronger backing but with the race to secure the 2024 Games just underway, he was confident Bostonians would eventually get behind the effort.

“Do we wish the approval ratings were higher than 46 percent, absolutely we do but candidly it is much more important those numbers be high two-and-a-half years from now,” Blackmun told reporters following a board of directors meeting in Washington.

“We have plenty of time to allow this trajectory to unfold and complete confidence in Boston 2024’s ability to do that.

“What we need to do first and foremost is assure the people of Boston that this is a fiscally responsible bid.”

A decision on the 2024 host will be made by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in mid-2017.

When selecting a host city, the IOC is sensitive to protests, not wanting to put the Games where they are not wanted.

While there is no major worry at the moment, a prolonged and coordinated campaign against staging the 2024 showcase could seriously undermined USOC plans.

“People of Boston are really smart, they are asking some really good questions and I think after this process has run its course, people of Boston will have confidence on the most important issue of all here — can we do this without tapping into the resources of the city of Boston,” said Blackmun.

Boston will be up against Rome and Germany, which has announced that it will bid through Berlin or Hamburg. A string of potential hosts, including Istanbul, Paris, Doha and a city from Africa, are also considering bids.

Cities have until September to put in a bid.

Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Gene Cherry

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