Column: USOC needs to dump Boston while there's still time
The U.S. Olympic Committee needs to cut its losses.
To have any chance of bringing the Summer Games back to America in 2024, it's time to dump Boston as the candidate city and go with Los Angeles.
Granted, LA will be hard-pressed to beat a field of appealing European cities.
But clearly, that's the best hope of salvaging the badly wounded U.S. bid.
After the hoopla of its initial selection, Boston has been beset by organizational problems and growing public discontent over spending billions of dollars on a 2 1/2-week sporting event.
That's not a slap at Boston. The people who will actually be paying the massive bill need to be assured it's worth it, and local organizers have done a very poor job making their case.
But the International Olympic Committee isn't in the habit of picking cities that haven't come up with a feasible plan for the main stadium and figure to have plenty of protesters hogging valuable media attention in the years leading up to games.
Time for the USOC to pull the ol' switcheroo.
The deadline for cities to officially declare for the race is Sept. 15, but the IOC won't make its choice for another two years. The USOC should get rid of Boston sooner than later, spend the next few weeks dealing with the inevitable embarrassment, then get fully behind a Los Angeles bid.
The USOC's options became even more obvious Friday, when the governor of Massachusetts blew off a request that he actually say whether or not he supports the bid.
Gov. Charlie Baker has hired a consulting firm to analyze whether the Olympics are a good idea. He doesn't intend to take a stand until he gets that report, which isn't expected until next month.
''I appreciate the fact that the timing in all of this is frustrating,'' Baker said at a news conference, before adding, ''I wouldn't be doing the taxpayers ... or the city of Boston or the Olympics or anybody else any favors if we made this decision with anything less than the full report.''
Even if the governor is persuaded to throw his support behind Boston, a referendum on the bid is planned next year. If it doesn't receive majority support both in the city and across the state, organizers have said they will drop out of the race.
Los Angeles is in far better position to win the games, with most of the potential venues already in place. That's in keeping with ''Olympic Agenda 2020'' - the reforms pushed through by IOC President Thomas Bach to bring down the obscene costs of hosting the games.
Most of the potential field for the 2022 Games bailed after hearing of Sochi's reported $51 billion price tag, including Oslo, Stockholm, Munich and St. Moritz. That left the IOC with an embarrassment of its own: a vote next week on the only two cities left standing, Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan.
If ''none of the above'' was an option, that might get more votes than these two unattractive finalists.
Bach doesn't want a repeat in 2024, so he can tout that his reforms are working. Rome, Paris, Budapest and Hamburg have announced their candidacies for 2024 - a very promising development - but the field will seem incomplete without a strong American bid now that the IOC has settled its longstanding differences with the USOC, a rift that inevitably led to embarrassing defeats when New York bid for 2012 and Chicago made a run at 2016.
''We have very strong interest and declared interest from five countries,'' Bach said last week during a stop at the British Open, including the U.S. on that list. ''It will be a very, very strong field. The quality of the candidatures we've seen up to now is really impressive.''
He glossed over where things actually stand with Boston.
When the USOC selected its candidate city just six months ago, with Boston beating out Los Angeles as well as San Francisco and Washington, D.C., it was seen as a bold, fresh choice that jibed with the wishes of an IOC. The international body, it was thought, had no desire to go back to sprawling L.A., which already hosted the Summer Games in 1932 and 1984.
Since then, as protests mounted and polls showed tepid public support in Boston, the IOC quietly made it clear that Los Angeles would actually be the better option, despite its inevitable transportation woes and potential venues spread throughout Southern California.
The USOC could always go with the third option: drop out of the race altogether. But that seems the least likely scenario, since it would infuriate the IOC, be seen as a slap at Bach, and squander a prime chance to return the Summer Game to the U.S. for the first time since 1996 in Atlanta.
The choice is obvious:
Los Angeles in.
Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963