* America’s last two Olympic bids ended in defeat
* Decision on 2024 Games host to be made in mid-2017 (Adds byline, quotes and details)
By Steve Keating
Jan 8 (Reuters) - Boston was selected on Thursday as the American candidate city that will bid to host the 2024 Olympics, taking the first strides in a gruelling marathon to bring the Summer Games back to the United States.
Boston, which has never hosted an Olympics, was unveiled as the surprise pick over two-time host Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington following the United States Olympic Committee’s(USOC) board meeting at the Denver International Airport.
“We’re excited about our plans to submit a bid for the 2024 Games and feel we have an incredibly strong partner in Boston that will work with us to present a compelling bid,” USOC Chairman Larry Probst said in a statement.
The decision followed more than one round of voting before the Boston bid eventually received the unanimous endorsement of the USOC’s board of directors.
The United States has not hosted a Summer Games since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
As home to the world’s most famous marathon, Bostonians are well-acquainted with tests of endurance and are about to enter a punishing race with all manner of hurdles and twists and turns in a bid to land the sporting world’s biggest prize.
Boston will be up against Rome and Germany, which has announced that it will bid through Berlin or Hamburg. A string of potential hosts, including Istanbul, Paris, Doha and a city from Africa, are also considering bids.
Cities have until September to officially put in a bid with a decision on the 2024 host to be made in mid-2017.
“It is an exceptional honor for Boston to be chosen as the U.S. representative in the running for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” said Boston Mayor Martin Walsh. “Our goal is to host Olympic and Paralympic Games that are innovative, walkable and hospitable to all.”
With the IOC having recently overhauled the bidding process to make it more cost-effective, a compact Boston bid that would take advantage of many existing facilities proved attractive.
The Russian city of Sochi spent a staggering $51 billion in staging last year’s Winter Olympics with the future of many of the purpose-built venues in doubt.
Boston is no stranger to expensive projects given the city’s Big Dig project, a state initiative from the 1980s to bury a raised highway that for years had split the city in two that was famous for its huge cost ovveruns.
But for the most part the USOC’s decision was greeted with enthusiasm from athletes, sports officials and politicians, including failed 2012 presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who played a key role in organizing the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.
“We know Boston is the place to inspire a new generation of athletes to discover the greatness within,” said Romney.
The announcement ends an exhaustive, 22-month evaluation process that began with the USOC reaching out to about 35 U.S. cities to gauge interest in a bid.
After stunning rebukes to New York to host the 2012 Olympics and Chicago’s failed bid for the 2016 Games the USOC had taken a cautious and methodical approach and assessing their chances before throwing their hat into the Olympic rings.
The USOC has spent years patching up strained relationships with the IOC over revenue sharing that hampered the last two U.S. bids for the Summer Games and will count on those improved ties when it comes time to vote.
“The deliberative and collaborative process that we put in place for selecting a city has resulted in a strong U.S. bid that can truly serve the athletes and the Olympic and Paralympic movements,” said Probst. (Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Additional reporting by Scott Malone in Boston; Editing by Frank Pingue)