Prince Sefa-Boakye interviews John Fish, Boston2024

This interview was recorded on March 12, 2015.

Facts and Opinions will vary to today’s topics and conversations

Prince: So tell my audience a bit about yourself, where you are in construction process. If not, the bidding process for the Boston 2024 Olympic Games?

John Fish (princesdailyjournal)John Fish: My name is John Fish and I am the Chair of Boston 2024, which is a non-profit organization pursuing to host the 2024 Olympics here in Boston, Ma. We established this organization 15 months ago and where we are now is phase two of a three-phase bidding process: we are working on submitting our letter of interest to the IOC (International Olympic Committee), along with the United States Olympic Committee, around September 15th 2015. Then afterwards we will submit another bid of interest approximately around January 16, 2016. Once that is done, there will be a year and half period which we will work to refine our plan and develop relationships internationally with IOC members and national government bodies, of different sports organizations, to learn more on how we can become an attractive home for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Prince: Why are you doing this? What made you carry the torch?

JF: The Olympics is a pathway for us—for Boston—to think about our future. It creates a constructive conversation. If you think about where Boston wants to be in 2030 or 2040, it begs the question of “how the Olympics will fit into that conversation?” If it fits, then it is a healthy conversation. If it doesn’t, it answers our question upfront. The question is not about hosting the Olympics and Paralympics game, it’s about “where the community wants to be in 2030 and 2040?” So it forces us, as a community, to come together and have a constructive conversation about the future.

Two reasons why I am doing this is, one, for the younger generations. If you think about my generation, the baby boomers of this country, we are the first generation in America that is leaving the United States worse off than we inherited. We have a $20 million trillion debt; we have global warming; we got more chaos in the world than any other time in history. So we are leaving that legacy to our next generation—our kids and grandkids.

Then lastly I am doing this because I am passionate about Sports. And I believe in the power of Sports! For me, I am dyslexic and I found sports as a pathway to succeed in school. I had confidence on the field, but not in the classroom.

Prince: What sports did you play?

JF: Hockey, Football and Baseball

Prince: Wow.

JF: Yes. And through the power of Sports, I was able to gain my confidence in the classroom and show everyone that I was not dumb and stupid. Sports defined me and it attributed to the successes that I enjoy today. And having the opportunity to speak about that publicly, and not be embarrassed by that, aspires others that they too don’t have to be restricted to a certain vocation because of their difference in learning.

Prince: You said that this construction project will be a catalyst for economic growth in Boston– spurring innovation, infrastructure, transportation, tourism, and housing. Explain that in more detail.

JF: What is important to realize—when you do speak about the Olympics—is that it’s not about the Olympics themselves. It is about the future of our city. You are introducing a conversation, about “where do you want to be in 20, 30, or 40 years from now?” which Americans don’t think that way. Most of us have been bit by the instant gratification bug: we make an investment today and want a return on that tomorrow. The equities market is a perfect example. It is the younger generation that is investing in the future.

To me it’s an opportunity to have a very constructive conversation of where we want to be. And that will permeate into the issues that we need to focus on to make our city, and our country, a great one. Transportation, Housing, Affordable Housing, Work Force Housing, all of the things that we could have solved for are based on the problems that we have already created in the last 50 years ago–and there are many. We are not going to solve all the problems, through the conversation of the Olympics, but we can solve some of the core issues that are affecting our development as a society.

Even if we don’t host the Olympics here in Boston, having the ability to have people sit down and have an adult conversation is very important. To me, this causes us to come together, as a community, to discuss race, religion, etc., and have a common ground to talk about the future and not about ourselves.

Prince: Give my audience a visual map of where will you be constructing the Olympic Games. And what existing stadiums will you being using?

JF: Right now there is a brand new proposal entered into the conversation of hosting the 2024 Olympic Games, called the 2020 Agenda. And what this agenda talks about is a new view and perspective on hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games: using existing facilities—no white elephants. Furthermore, this proposal talks about reducing cost-forbidding and ensuring a powerful legacy behind. To me, it is the only reason why I am really committed to sharing this 2024 effort. We do have a couple of very precious areas in our community that can undergo substantial redevelopment and create value, but it will not go towards the Olympics—it will go towards the 2030-2040 time period. Both from an academic perspective (student housing at UMass) to building a potential 5 million square feet community in Downtown Boston, it will leave a legacy behind after the Olympics.

Potentially we could approximately have seventy-percent of the Olympic and Paralympic venues at college universities, existing facilities, or temporary facilities. Some of these college/universities may even decide to build new facilities. So if it wasn’t for the 2020 agenda, then we wouldn’t be sure if we could offer our universities up to the extent of where we are now in our proposal. And coupled with that, it is a way to leverage our intellectual capital: our student body that we have on these campuses.

We have one-hundred college/universities within about a 10 kilometer radius in Boston. It houses almost 300,000 students of which 51,000 of those students are foreign students. What is really important is that it is about the future! How do those students feel about the Olympic and Paralympic Games? How do we engage in that conversation? How do we leverage our intellectual-academic environment here to the benefit of the Olympic Movement? To me, I don’t know what that question is. But I would like to have that conversation because it is a global conversation—it is not just a domestic conversation.

Prince: So again. UMass and what other facilities?

JF: BC, Northeastern, BU, Harvard, MIT, Emerson College, Bentley University, Tufts University, it’s just whole host of them. We don’t want to be restrictive in our thinking about “what college university should we use?” We want to be inclusive. This really gives us a wonderful opportunity to exercise, the resources that we have here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It’s not just about Boston, but about the “People’s Game.” It’s about the “Commonwealth of Massachusetts Games.” So “how do we thread the needle through the entire Commonwealth?”, so that in itself becomes a very, very, attractive investment for everybody.

Prince: Is this a government effort or a private sector effort? And will you ensure inclusivity and diversity in the hiring process?

JF: This is a private sector effort that has a big impact on the public sector. So let me break that down.

Prince: Okay.

JF: What I mean is, we are proposing to bring the greatest sports event in the world to Boston and in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Therefore, we have to be very respectful to the taxpayers and citizens of the Commonwealth. We need to make sure that we build a consensus because, at the end of the day, if the members of our community don’t want the Olympics, then we shouldn’t host the Olympics. I don’t have any issues with that at all. I feel strongly that we have to build a consensus about whether or not it is the right thing to do. By rolling out these community meetings, and having these conversations about where the venues should go, is a process that we are going to take.

To us, it is being privately funded and we will continue to build a consensus on the public side. Now one of the things that taxpayer dollars will get involved, in this particular conversation, are in two areas: one, is Infrastructure-Investment. All the investments in infrastructure is what we have to do anyways. It is infrastructure in the most part that is already underway such as the Red Line Subway Cars, the Green Line Cars, that’s just been ordered. And other transportation and infrastructure improvements that has already begun or released. The second is Transportation. When the MBTA comes out with that report, investment will be towards MBTA repairs and the deferred maintenance repairs which hasn’t been done for the past 25 years. That too will be very important to the quality of transportation and ability of our transport system, if we are going to the host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Now on diversity and inclusion. We are absolutely one-hundred percent behind having diversity-inclusion requirements as it relates to the very thoughtful diversity-inclusion proposal for the convention center. Just for starters, we were proposing to adopt that proposal, which is currently out there now, because it has already been negotiated, discussed, and socialized in the community. So let’s use that as a base line. We want to let people know that we are serious about diversity because this should be “Everybody’s Game,” “The People’s Games.” Not just for the wealthy; not just for Boston; and not just for Downtown. It should be for the entire community.

Part Two: Tough Questions on Tax-Payer Money, Housing, Sex Trafficking, &Transparency.

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