Ugly Truth: Why Boston Shouldn’t Host the Olympics

A girl leaps into a swimming pool, wearing water wings.

The Belly Dive, by Claudio Beck

There’s been a lot of debate about whether Boston should host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. Popular support for this is quite low, with concerns raised about lack of transparency by the planning committee, financial repercussions, and whether our city could really handle that influx of visitors.

But no one’s talking about the real reason why selecting Boston as the host city is a terrible idea.

Boston doesn’t have the social skills to host the Olympic Games.

This is a city where a friendly “hello” is likely to be met by a dead-eyed stare. Where I buy coffee from people who never meet my gaze during the entire transaction.

Sometimes I feel that only dogs smile in Boston.

Smiling dog. Photo by Conrad Olson.

Smiling dog. Photo by Conrad Olson.

I’ve lamented for the last 15 years about how unfriendly Boston is. And then I’ve raced to defend it, to justify its lack of warmth. It’s not unfriendliness so much as reserve. Distrust of strangers.

People are fantastic once you get to know them. There’s none of the fake, forced cheer you get in the Midwest or the South.

Maybe, as a friend recently theorized, the reason that Bostonians won’t talk to strangers is that they don’t want to BOTHER them. Bostonians have a healthy respect for each other’s personal space, and conversational space.

Maybe a little too healthy.

I was telling a friend who lives in South Carolina that if I sit by myself at a Boston bar eating dinner, no one will talk to me. Except maybe the bartender. (Thank the gods for bartenders.)

A bartender sits behind an empty bar.

Lonely bartender. Photo by Georgie Pauwels.

“That’s not normal, right?” I asked my friend. “Would people be talking to me in Charleston?”

“Of course they would!” she said. “Tons of people would be trying to talk to you.” She explained that guys would be hitting on me, women my age would be striking up conversations–there would be no wall of reserve.

Sure, some of that attention would be unwanted. But I’d rather be annoyed than feel invisible.

So Boston, if you want to host the Olympics, learn to be a good host. It’s all about making your guests comfortable.

Don’t yell at them if they get on the wrong bus.

Maybe put up some street signs? At least for the major roads?

Breaking news: Smiling at a stranger doesn’t mean you’re asking to marry them.

Want to host an international event, Boston? Learn to make some eye contact.

Photo credits: The Belly Dive by Claudio Beck; Smiling Dog by Conrad Olson; Lonely Bartender by Georgie Pauwels, all via Creative Commons on Flickr.