Boston’s Olympic bid spurred a remarkable community deliberation. It gave us a chance to talk about our visions for sports and the city. The discussions were exciting, and we felt a spirit of democracy.
But the subsequent withdrawal of the bid left many with an empty feeling. It truncated deliberation about the future of Boston’s engagement with sport by removing its focal point. Suddenly, we had no place to go. We moved on to the issue of chewing tobacco at Fenway. Without an Olympic focal point, our energy dissipated.
But we now have an opportunity to regain that energy. The United Nations, through UNESCO, is seeking a host city for its next all-nations sports conference, the International Conference of Ministers and Senior Officials Responsible for Physical Education and Sport, or MINEPS VI, to be held in May 2017. Boston should bid for it.
Of course, the conference does not have the scope of the Olympics. But it requires neither velodromes nor financial guarantees to promote Boston’s grasp of the future of sport. The forum addresses such issues as the problems besetting the localities that host mega-sport media events as well as the challenges surrounding sport corruption and gender equality.
If held in Boston, the conference would provide the city’s great medical and data research communities with an opportunity to showcase their findings on all things related to sports; indeed, it’s a chance for every part of our community to conceptualize, integrate, and extend its passion for sports. And, most importantly, it would connect the city’s youth with sports.
A 2017 UNESCO-Boston sports conference would also offer an opportunity to build on the ethnic diversity of Boston by connecting each community of our region with a sports delegation from its ethnic home. With the aid of digital technology, Boston could foster these connections before, during, and after the conference, strengthening our city’s ties across the world.
If we want this opportunity, we have to bid for it. Maybe Boston has had enough with bids. But just because we passed on one opportunity doesn’t mean we should pass on another, especially when it’s as good as this one. Let’s make a Boston-led discussion on the future of global sport the legacy of Boston’s 2024 Olympic bid.
Charles Nesson is a professor of law and founder of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.