- Associated Press - Monday, July 20, 2015

SOMERVILLE, Mass. (AP) - Organizers of Boston’s bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics are in a sprint to the finish, scrambling to improve lackluster poll numbers ahead of a September deadline to formally throw the city’s name into the mix to hold the games.

To help turn public opinion, the Boston 2024 group has stepped up outreach efforts, enlisting nearly 4,000 volunteers to rally support around the bid.

This past weekend alone, volunteers and paid staff fanned out to more than a dozen events, from a youth lacrosse tournament in central Massachusetts, a handful of Cape Cod Baseball League games, a Puerto Rican festival in Boston and assorted farmers markets and summertime gatherings.

“Really, our community engagement strategy is to go where people are,” said Brendan Joyce, a staff leader posted Saturday at Tufts University for the Bay State Games, the state’s annual Olympic-style amateur athletic competition.

Joyce and other Olympics boosters encouraged passersby to sign up for regular email updates as they doled out wristbands, pins and other Boston 2024 freebies.

Many eagerly took part, but a few voice strong concerns.

“I’m a big fan of the Olympics, but I think this would be the worst thing that could happen to this city,” said Richard Murray, an Ipswich, Massachusetts resident who stopped by the Boston 2024 table in between helping officiate Saturday’s track and field competitions. “The city couldn’t handle it.”

Christopher Dempsey, co-chair of the No Boston Olympics opposition group, questioned how effective the outreach efforts are.

Polling earlier this month suggested support for the games hovers around 42 percent statewide, a modest increase from last month’s roughly 39 percent.

Updated spending numbers won’t be publicly available for a few more weeks, but the privately financed Boston 2024 group’s first quarter spending report shows about $222,000 expended on community engagement and another $259,000 on marketing and communications. Dempsey’s group, in comparison, spent just over $2,000 on all expenses over the same period.

“Even though they have a much larger megaphone, we feel like we’re putting out information that’s resonating,” Dempsey said.

Doug Rubin, a communications adviser for Boston 2024 and former campaign strategist for Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, said Olympics organizers are confident they’ll see support climb as critical deadlines approach.

The U.S. Olympic Committee has said it wants to see public support rise to about 50 percent before the Sept. 15 deadline to officially declare candidacy in an international competition that likely will include Paris, Rome, Hamburg, Germany and Budapest, Hungary.

Boston beat out Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. for the right to represent the U.S. if it moves forward with a bid.

Organizers will also need to reach at least a 60 percent approval rating before final bids are due to the International Olympic Committee in 2017, Rubin said.

For now, Boston 2024 has yet to launch costly television and print advertisements, but Rubin said that option remains on the table. Instead, the organization is actively promoting the bid online.

It maintains a slickly produced website showcasing its vision of the games. It’s also produced a series of short YouTube videos featuring prominent boosters like Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz and former Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan, both of whom are on organization’s board of directors.

“It’s not so much a persuasion campaign as it is an information campaign at this point,” Rubin said. “It’s really just getting to as many places as possible and making sure we get that information in their hands.”

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