MIT Plays a Role in the Boston Olympics Bid

by Nancy DuVergne Smith on November 20, 2014 · 9 comments

in Campus

Israel Ruiz, MIT executive vice president and treasurer, left; MIT President L. Rafael Reif; Bob Reynolds, CEO of Putnum Investments; and Scott Blackmun, CEO of the United States Olympic Committee

Israel Ruiz, EVP and treasurer, left; President Reif; Bob Reynolds, CEO of Putnum Investments; and Scott Blackmun, CEO of the USOC. Photo: Dominick Reuter.

Rumblings of a Boston bid for the 2024 Olympics have been bouncing around the city for months and it turns out that MIT is part of the crew evaluating the options. When the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) visited Boston Tuesday, they met with Israel Ruiz SM ‘01, MIT’s executive vice president and treasurer, and others making the case for Boston as a center of innovation that could provide a walkable Olympics venue.

Ruiz serves as a cochair of the Boston 2024 Institutional Outreach Subcommittee, which is working to engage area universities in supporting the bid. This group is considering how institutions can use this event for broader goals such as outreach to K-12 students and educational opportunities for athletes after the games.

“We also foresee faculty engagement around innovation,” Ruiz told the MIT News office in a 3 Questions interview. “Professor Carlo Ratti of MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning and his colleagues from the Senseable City Lab have been talking with the Boston 2024 team about opportunities to use real-time urban data, such as cellphone network information, to better understand urban flows and patterns of activity. Using mobility patterns to reveal unused capacity in the transportation infrastructure could inform planning and help to achieve a walkable Olympics, complemented by appropriate transportation infrastructure.”

The Olympics could also showcase university facilities.

“Director of Athletics Julie Soriero is engaging with us to imagine how MIT might contribute to the games; the Institute offers one of the broadest intercollegiate athletics programs in the world, with 33 varsity sports overall. If Boston is successful and is ultimately selected as the host city, we are pursuing possibilities for MIT to provide the sporting venues for archery and fencing.”

President L. Rafael Reif welcomed the USOC group, the governor, Boston major, and presidents of University of Massachusetts at Boston, Northeastern, Tufts, and Bentley to the meeting, which also included a visit to the MIT Media Lab. The USOC decides in January among the four US cities—Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington DC, and Boston. The next stage is an international competition among contending cities with a decision announced in 2017.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Peter Schmidt December 18, 2014 at 10:10 pm

Hosting the Olympics is a losing proposition. Why would MIT want to associate itself with such a dumb idea? Not to mention dancing with the devil of the incredibly corrupt IOC and its graft ridden bidding process.

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David Drummond December 19, 2014 at 1:12 am

Does no one else find this ridiculous and objectionable? MIT is promoting the Olympics because if has “one of the broadest intercollegiate athletics programs in the world”? Laughable! Who in the world would lay this distinction on MIT? Of more concern is the fact that MIT continues its role in supporting Big Brother by tapping into cellphone data to manipulate social patterns. This puts the Institute in the same league as Google and Facebook and other forces of evil. Is no one concerned, really???

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Nancy DuVergne Smith December 19, 2014 at 11:29 am

As you can imagine, there are lively discussions about the pros and cons of staging an Olympics here in Boston. We thought it was interesting that universities were exploring how they could take part in the Olympics, should it happen here—which is a very long shot. It may, however, get people thinking of positive, long-term transformations of our region.

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Mina December 19, 2014 at 1:32 pm

I agree, hosting the Olympics does seem like a losing proposition, but I admit that I don’t know all the facts. I think the data-driven culture at MIT would have liked to do some analysis and publication showing if and why and how this is advantageous, both from an environmental and economic perspective.

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Ronald T Pate December 19, 2014 at 6:07 pm

Why does someone always find something wrong with good or new ideas? Boston may be one of the few cities in the United States that has facilities in place that can host the Olympics. There are plenty of really smart people in Boston that can figure out how to put on a very successful event.

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Peter Schmidt December 22, 2014 at 4:30 pm

The Olympics in Boston would mean overspending on hotel and transportation infrastructure that would then be left to rot due to subsequent underutilization, when it inevitably follows the pattern of nearly every other one of the past N Games. The taxpayers would foot the bill for it, the city would be snarled for weeks, the ticket prices will be unaffordable for almost everyone living here, and the bribery and corruption in the IOC would now involve people here.

I will be happy for some very smart group of backers to prove me wrong by posting a bond in the amount of the typical overrun of the past 4 Games. If they are confident with their own money that the public won’t get fleeced, I can ignore the other downsides.

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Xavid Pretzer December 21, 2014 at 1:28 am

I think it’s a bit offensive that MIT’s promoting the Olympic bid like this without addressing the secretive, undemocratic way the bid was submitted without any public process, leading the Cambridge City Council to go on the record as opposing it. While there may be some advantages to MIT to hosting the Olympics, MIT should be willing to take a strong stand for openness and transparency, and shouldn’t ignore the Olympics’s history of major cost overruns at taxpayer expense, displacement and poor treatment of the homeless and other disadvantaged residents, its horrible track record on free speech, and other community impacts. MIT participating in an underhanded, closed Olympic bid does not make it seem like they’re acting in good faith.

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Bill Ohm December 27, 2014 at 1:24 am

Unlike most other venues, the Boston area is particularly well suited to handle crowds of transient young athletes with excellent facilities. We also have some of the best business schools in the world for expertise in managing complex situations. And our former Governor has a track record in cleaning up and managing a Winter Olympics.

Sure, the IOC is corrupt. But we don’t have to be.

I think it’s an opportunity worth pursuing. Seems to me Boston is an ideal setting.

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Marc January 12, 2015 at 2:18 pm

It’s becoming more recognized around the world that the universities, and particularly the business schools, in the Boston area have provided the intellectual leadership for the previous several decades of America’s conversion away from a moderately equitable and individualistic meritocracy and towards a revoltingly unjust and over-organized cronyist kleptocracy.

This conversion has driven our Geni coefficient upwards as the government steers more capital away from the middle class and into the hands of a tiny number of individuals, largely former business students, who have the economic power to lobby legislators and are able to influence the public through their ties to the mass media. In order to remain competitive, MIT’s institutional philosophies have also changed with the times to reflect this prevailing attitude that a small minority are justified or even obligated to wrest capital and power away from the general population by using the government, the military, large academic institutions, and multinational corporations as their tools.

The IOC is more corrupt than America’s institutions, including MIT, but we are rapidly catching up to them, and, if trends continue then the IOC may be less corrupt than us by 2024.

Fortunately, I think the spirit of the 1770s is still alive in this town, and the people here may take direct action again once we get sufficiently pissed off about how we are not represented by our government. Unless the government acts that have increased inequity are reversed in the next 9 years, the residents and visitors around this town may direct large-scale civil disobedience, vandalism, and worse against the Olympics in 2024, and those actions will sometimes occur with the complicity or outright support of local leaders that still manage to offer true representation. The police and the National Guard will not defend the venues if it ever involves harming the population.

The result might be an Olympics to remember. It may change the country and the world for the better without much loss of life, so I’m all for it even though I will feel bad for the the athletes if those things happen, and I certainly wouldn’t want to invest in bringing the Olympics here.

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