BOSTON (AP) — U.S. Olympic Committee leaders and organizers in Boston are showing signs they’re still on track to throw Beantown’s name into the international competition for the 2024 Summer Olympics come September.
The two sides met privately Thursday in what they described as “productive” talks. In a joint statement, they said the discussions included reviewing what’s been done in the more than two weeks since the Boston 2024 group unveiled a revised version of its $4.6 billion proposal, dubbed Bid 2.0., in an effort to revive sagging local support for the plan.
USOC leaders also talked by phone with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker about the state’s ongoing assessment of the new bid’s financial viability and met separately with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.
“We’re pleased to have the support of the Mayor and look forward to working with (Chairman) Steve Pagliuca and the entire team at Boston 2024 to make this bid a success,” USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said in the brief statement.
Republican Gov. Baker hasn’t committed support for Boston’s Olympics bid, saying he wants to hear first from a consultant hired by the state. On his regular monthly appearance on WGBH-FM on Thursday, Baker said he expected their findings around mid-August.
“We’ve all agreed we aren’t going to sign a guarantee that the commonwealth is on the hook for any cost overruns associated with this,” Baker said, referring to himself and Democratic legislative leaders.
The USOC said after a June 30 meeting with Boston leaders that they wanted to see local support rise above 50 percent “relatively soon.” Recent polls suggest only about 42 percent of Massachusetts voters support hosting the games.
The USOC must officially declare a candidate by Sept. 15. The International Olympic Committee will then pick a winner in 2017. Among the international cities in the running are Paris; Rome; Hamburg, Germany; and Budapest, Hungary.
Thursday’s private meetings came as a citizen’s group formally filed a petition with the state seeking to place a referendum on the 2016 ballot banning taxpayer spending if Boston wins the games.
The binding referendum, which is being reviewed by the state attorney general’s office, would effectively ban state taxpayer spending on the estimated $4.6 billion games while making exceptions for transportation projects that have a lasting benefit for the state.
State Rep. Shaunna O’Connell, a Taunton Republican and one of the leaders of the effort, said the referendum represents the first concrete steps taken to assure taxpayers are protected if the Olympics go over budget. “We cannot count on gimmicks and lip service” from other lawmakers and Boston 2024, she said as supporters announced the filing at the State House steps.
Organizers of Boston’s Olympic bid have also said they’re interested in proposing a 2016 referendum, promising not to go forward with a final bid unless a majority of Massachusetts and Boston voters approved.
David Wedge, a spokesman for the group, said Thursday that it’s “committed to ensuring that a clear, transparent ballot question” is put before voters. He didn’t elaborate on how the question would be worded.
The deadline to file referendum petitions is Aug. 5.
No Boston Olympics, another citizens group opposed to the Olympics bid, said it supports the Thursday petition, despite concerns it does not prevent Boston leaders from agreeing to put city taxpayers on the hook if the games go over budget.
“We worry that it’s really insufficient,” said Chris Dempsey, the group’s co-chairman, adding that No Boston Olympics is not contemplating proposing its own ballot referendum.
The Boston City Council is also weighing placing four, nonbinding questions related to the games on the citywide ballot this November.
Associated Press writer Bob Salsberg contributed to this report.
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