Ice Network

Kwan going to bat for Boston's 2024 Olympic bid

Decorated U.S. skater announced as integral part of board of directors
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Michelle Kwan, seen her with husband Clay Pell, says that the committee in charge of Boston's bid for the 2024 Olympic Summer Games is working hard to alleviate concerns over the possibility of the city hosting the event. -Nick McCarvel

The committee bidding for Boston to host the 2024 Olympic Summer Games has announced a 30-member board of directors, including the most decorated figure skater in U.S. history, Michelle Kwan.

Kwan will join other civic and business leaders, as well as sports luminaries Larry Bird, David Ortiz and 2014 Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi. The board met for the first time April 22, with Kwan and Keflezighi in attendance.

Reached by telephone Wednesday, Kwan said she is eager to work toward bringing the Olympics back to the U.S. for the first time since the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, where she competed.

"Being an Olympian and having experienced participating in the Olympics, I understand what it means for the Olympic movement: countries coming together in prosperity and peace," Kwan went on, explaining why she agreed to serve on the committee. "Boston is such an incredible city. The possibility of this city hosting an Olympics would be tremendous."

For the past couple of years, Kwan has lived in nearby Providence, Rhode Island, with her husband, Clay Pell. She said that, for a host city, the Olympics goes far beyond the actual two weeks of the games.

"With the last U.S. host cities -- Atlanta, L.A. and Salt Lake -- the U.S. Olympic Committee had done a really good job of organizing and putting together a really concrete plan from beginning to end," Kwan said. "In these cities, there's a legacy that still remains."

In recent years, Olympic venues often cover a span far beyond the city limits of the host. Asked whether her own state of Rhode Island might be home to some venues, Kwan demurred.

"Wouldn't it be nice?" she said, laughing. "It's not my place to say -- I don't expect [there] to be. I think the whole New England area will be able to take advantage of it. It's only a short ride from where we are in Providence to Boston. You can take the train and get there in a short amount of time, and not even have to take the car -- it's such a bonus for the region."

Kwan wasn't able to share any further details, but she is clearly enjoying the planning process at this early stage.

"It's exciting. I've been able to see the plans for the venues and the partnerships needed to make it a successful Games," she said. "The board meeting was very informative. The partnerships that are established, where we're headed, I thought it was very well organized and headed in the right direction. There will be more board members who will join. It will grow."

Although Kwan competed at the Games, she thinks that watching the Olympics can inspire kids in many ways.

"It creates a sense of possibilities," she said. "More facilities are being built and open for public consumption. Families bringing their kids, signing them up for lessons -- it stimulates the economy."

Going back to the planning, Kwan acknowledged that there is some local resistance to the bid. Although polls show support is increasing, there is an organized opposition group, No Boston Olympics.

"There are a lot of concerns, and we're definitely taking everything into account," she said. "The board meeting felt very thought-through and organized. It really addressed some of the concerns people have.

"It's two years until the decision. It's not like we're going to bid tomorrow -- given a little more time, [people] will understand and see for themselves the structure and framework that's built. In the next few weeks and months, people will understand what we're doing. Keeping people informed and addressing straight-on the concerns people have is important."

Many of the concerns have to do with what will become of venues for various sports after the Games end. Kwan said the committee is addressing these issues already, as well as discussing preparations for the event.

"After the Games, when everybody packs their bags and leaves, what are these buildings used for? If they're temporary, where will they go? Are they environmentally friendly?" she said.

The International Olympic Committee will choose the host city in 2017. Other bids are expected from Rome and Hamburg, Germany.  Paris and Budapest, Hungary, are possibilities as well. Boston was selected as the U.S. bid city in January.

Apart from her work on Boston 2024, Kwan is making herself very much at home in Rhode Island. Her husband ran for governor of the state in 2014 and Kwan joined him on the campaign trail. Fans excitedly speculated about Kwan becoming the first lady of Rhode Island, or even, someday, the United States. Back in 2008, there was a light-hearted but sincere fan campaign called "Kwan for President," complete with buttons.

Kwan hinted that more politics might indeed be in her future.

"I really enjoyed the campaign," she said, thinking back to 2014. "It was exciting -- the innovative policies, getting the opportunity to meet everybody. [Clay] had a very grass roots campaign. People getting the opportunity to meet the candidate came out and asked questions, and it was very powerful for Clay. He can make a difference, and people really count on you to make a difference; it's a big responsibility. If the opportunity arose again, I think both he and I, as a team, would be glad to try again."

Hang onto those "Kwan for President" buttons.