Report: Olympics could pump billions into Massachusetts economy, but with risks attached

Economic Indicators Associated Press

Massachusetts could reap billions of dollars in economic activity if Boston is chosen to host the 2024 Olympics, the authors of a new report suggest, while adding there are still many questions that cloud the forecast.

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The study, released Wednesday by the Donohue Institute at the University of Massachusetts and the nonprofit Boston Foundation, analyzed preliminary budget plans drawn up by Boston 2024, the independent group organizing the city's bid for Summer Games.

"The findings, not surprisingly, neither suggest that holding the 2024 Olympic Games is an economic slam dunk for the city, nor do they reflect the economic disaster scenarios painted by some," said Paul Grogan, president of the Boston Foundation, in a preface to the 41-page report.

"Instead, they show that the Olympics could be a net economic positive, but that success will depend upon smart budgeting and effective planning to avoid some of the huge cost overruns that have bedeviled some Olympics host cities in the past," wrote Grogan.

Boston was selected by the United States Olympic Committee as the U.S. bidder for 2024. The International Olympic Committee is expected to choose a host city in 2017; Rome and Hamburg, Germany, are also slated to bid, and Paris is among other possible contenders.

The report estimates that $2.1 billion out of a total $3.8 billion in Olympic construction activity would directly benefit Massachusetts firms, creating or supporting 24,000 jobs over a roughly six-year period leading up to 2024.

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Of the estimated $5.3 billion in other operational spending related to the Olympics, such as security, information technology and venue management, the study assumes that $2.9 billion would benefit in-state companies and, during the year the games are held, create some 50,000 jobs in Massachusetts.

Tourism in the summer of 2024, beyond the normal influx of visitors, could generate an additional $300 million in spending for the state economy, the report said.

Nonetheless, the authors sprinkle cautionary tones and red flags throughout the report. They warn against trying to attach a single figure to potential economic benefits, saying "substantive questions still remain regarding the bid and the fiscal realities of the budget forecast."

Actual Olympic costs often exceed initial budget estimates, the report notes, and how organizers handle any cost overruns could weigh on the overall economic prognosis.

Boston 2024 chief executive Richard Davey, in an interview Tuesday prior to release of the report, said organizers were conscious of the need to avoid overruns, devising strategies that include insurance policies to protect against unanticipated delays in project delivery.

"We're trying to think creatively as well in how we keep our costs down," said Davey.