TIME free diving

The World’s Greatest Free Diver Is Missing and Presumed Dead in Spanish Waters

Natalia Molchanova
Jacques Munch—AFP/Getty Images Natalia Molchanova in 2005.

She set 41 world records and won 23 world championships in the sport

Natalia Molchanova, regarded by many as the greatest free diver in the history of the sport, is missing and presumed dead after she disappeared during a dive off the Spanish island of Formentera on August 2.

Molchanova, who set 41 world records and won 23 world championships in the sport, was diving for fun with friends close to the village of La Savina in an area where currents can fluctuate powerfully, the New York Times reports. Because she was diving for leisure and not to set a record, she was not attached to the line that divers often use to mark depth and guard against emergencies.

Her personal records in competition include a dive of 233 feet without the use of fins and almost 300 feet with a monofin. She also held the world record for “static apnea,” in which a diver floats face-down in a pool, managing to stay 9 minutes 2 seconds without taking a breath.

Search efforts begun after her disappearance continued for two days, but her son, Alexey Molchanov, who is also a respected free diver, told the Times on August 4 that she is now not expected to be found alive.

“Free diving is not only sport, it’s a way to understand who we are,” Molchanova said in an interview with the Times last year. “When we go down, if we don’t think, we understand we are whole. We are one with world.”

[NYT]

TIME Sports

Why Officials are Puzzled by the Deaths of Yosemite Jumpers

dean-potter
Cedar Wright Dean Potter practicing the art of slacklining in Yosemite Valley

Dean Potter and Graham Hunt were killed on May 16 when they slammed into the ridgeline at 100 mph

FRESNO, Calif. — World-famous wingsuit flier Dean Potter had strapped his iPhone to the back of his head and hit record before jumping from a cliff in Yosemite National Park in what was to be an exhilarating flight through a V-shaped rocky formation — a route that left little margin for error.

Potter set the phone at this position to capture a video of his partner, Graham Hunt, behind and above him as the pair leaped off the granite diving board at Taft Point, 3,500 feet above the valley.

Twenty-two seconds later the video abruptly stops. The two were killed when they slammed into the ridgeline at 100 mph-plus attempting to soar through the notch in the rock formation called Lost Brother.

Through a records request, The Associated Press obtained investigation reports about the deadly flight on May 16. National Park Service investigators relied heavily on Potter’s bashed iPhone, interviews and a series of rapid-fire photos taken by Potter’s girlfriend, Jen Rapp, who stayed behind at the launch site as the spotter.

The investigation concluded the deaths were accidental, but despite the video and photos of the jump, officials consider the specific reason why they died a mystery. Investigators listed several possible contributing factors — including indecision, distraction, miscalculation and air turbulence — as the jumpers made split-second decisions.

Potter, 43, and Hunt, 29, were both experienced in the extreme sport of wingsuit flying, a dangerous offshoot of BASE jumping — an acronym for parachuting off buildings, antennas, spans such as bridges and Earth. They would glide frighteningly close to cliffs and trees, wearing the suits that have fabric stitched between the arms and body and between the legs, so jumpers spreading their limbs can stay aloft longer and control their path with subtle body movements.

In 2009, Potter made the longest known BASE jump — off the Eiger North Face in Switzerland. He remained in flight for 2 minutes and 50 seconds, earning him National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year title.

In his final flight, Potter stood with Hunt on the ledge in Yosemite. It was still light at 7:35 p.m. with hovering rainclouds, according to the investigation. Potter wore a red suit, while Hunt’s was black and yellow. Hunt zipped his phone in his pocket, after trying unsuccessfully to text his girlfriend, who was waiting in the valley. Potter’s iPhone video recording captured what sounded like him saying “Ready?”

Potter told Rapp that he planned to fly through the notch. If he lacked elevation, he would instead go around the ridgeline. Rapp snapped photos of Potter making the leap, followed closely by Hunt.

Seconds into flight, Rapp lost sight of them. Instead, she told investigators that she heard a “thwack” followed a second later by a “guuuuhhh.” She shouted in their direction, hoping the noises were parachutes opening, not impacts of bodies. She didn’t received the text Potter usually sent with the word “safe” to assure her that he had once again beaten the odds.

Dusk turned to darkness and desperation. Rapp drove to their agreed upon meeting place. Not finding the jumpers, she returned to Potter’s nearby home, where she found Hunt’s girlfriend.

“Are they OK? Have you talked to them?” Hunt’s girlfriend asked. Rapp said she hadn’t.

The two women at 10 p.m. went to the residence of Mike Gauthier, Yosemite’s chief of staff and a friend of Potter. Gauthier urged the women to report the men missing and they made an emergency phone call. A dispatcher reported a woman calling, asking if any BASE jumpers had been arrested. Upon hearing a “no,” the caller broke down crying.

A ground search that night turned up nothing, but a helicopter crew the next morning found their bodies.

Autopsies found that Potter had struck headfirst and that Hunt hit with the front of his body. Blood samples showed no drugs or alcohol for either man.

Investigators say Rapp’s still photos show Hunt flying left, then right, then left and a final hard banking right before his impact. After Potter’s iPhone was repaired, the video shows him a foot or two above the ground just before the video stopped. Park officials did not provide the video to the AP, saying it was in possession of Potter’s family. Rapp declined an AP request for the photographs that she took.

An unnamed wingsuit flier investigators consulted estimated that Potter and Hunt had flown through the notch about five times, a path well known among wingsuit fliers as being dangerous.

The flier inspected both wingsuits for the park service and found no equipment flaws, the investigative reports said.

Among other things, they noted that Hunt may have been distracted by phone calls and texts he attempted immediately before jumping and that Potter may have seen his partner strike the ground and flinched, or he simply misjudged his elevation.

“No one but Potter and Hunt will every truly know what happened,” investigators concluded.

TIME Sports

Don’t Let the IOC Ruin Ultimate Frisbee

Pittsburgh Central Florida ultimate frisbee
Chris Bernacchi—AP University of Pittsburgh's Ethan Beardsley (28) dives for a disc against Central Florida's Matt Capp (9) during the USA Ultimate Open Division I College National Championship final held in Madison, Wisconsin on May 27, 2013.

Bryan Walsh is the Foreign Editor at TIME, handling international news in the magazine and online. Previously he covered energy and environmental issues for TIME, and was the Tokyo bureau chief in 2006 and 2007.

The International Olympic Committee's decision to recognize the sport could kill what makes it so special

One Friday night in the spring of 1998, I found myself sitting in the front passenger seat of an ancient Toyota Corolla packed with four of my college classmates, somewhere in South Carolina, on the way to an Ultimate Frisbee tournament. Because stereotypes are sometimes true, we were arguing over which Grateful Dead tape to play when the cops pulled us over for speeding. This was concerning—a bunch of vaguely hippieish college students in a car with New Jersey plates getting escorted into a police station in a very small Southern town. And we had a tournament to get to, which is what we patiently explained to the police officer on duty, who kept one eye on the NCAA tournament game playing in the background. An Ultimate Frisbee tournament, where we would compete against other college clubs in Ultimate Frisbee! To which the cop responded, looking at each of us in our Umbro shorts and faded T-shirts: “So which one of you is the dog?”

Go ahead, laugh—Ultimate players are used to it. There’s no getting around the fact that this highly athletic, highly competitive sport involves grown men and women, often wearing extremely silly shirts, running, jumping and diving (sorry—”laying out“) after what is ultimately a child’s toy. Or that even Ultimate games played at the very highest of levels often go unrefereed, with players instead calling their own fouls and settling any disagreements through on-field discussions that sometimes end only slightly quicker than the U.S.-Iran nuclear talks. Or that college Ultimate clubs—of which there are now more than 700 throughout North America—have names like Süperfly (Yale, which of course adds the umlaut); Army of Darkness (the wild men of Amherst); Nun Betta (Catholic University, and hats off to them); or the Apes of Wrath (University of Oklahoma by way of Steinbeck). Or that matches often end with each team improvising a cheer for the other—the more NSFW the better, which is something I must say that the Clockwork Orange at Princeton University excelled at during my time there, even if we were less great at the actual winning.

The point is that Ultimate is, at its heart, a goofy, spirited sport, even if it’s often played by very serious and very athletic people. (If you doubt the latter, check out this highlight reel from the legendary—within Ultimate, at least—Brodie Smith.) The actual 10th commandment of the sport makes it clear—Ultimate is about “the basic joy of play.” No coaches! No referees! No pressure! That was what attracted to me the sport when I was a college freshman burned out from playing varsity sports in high school. (Well, that and access to 21-year-old teammates who could buy beer.) We had fun! We had discs—no one calls them Frisbees, FYI—that had Malcolm McDowell’s mascaraed eye from the Clockwork Orange movie emblazoned on them! And absolutely no one thought that Ultimate would lead to anything but playing Ultimate.

And that’s why the news that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had decided to recognize Ultimate Frisbee—or rather, the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF), the closest thing the sport has to a governing body—has left me concerned. There’s a simple reason: the IOC, which is prevented from being the most corrupt body in international sport only by the existence of FIFA, has the unique ability to suck the life out of sport. While I’m all for the best players in the Ultimate world getting a chance to represent their country at the Olympic Games—although, guys, watch out for the drug testing—the sheer bureaucracy of the IOC, and the increasing commercialism of the Games themselves, go against the spirit of Ultimate. This is a sport with rules only slightly more complicated than those of checkers. The first ever game of Ultimate was played by New Jersey high schoolers in 1968, and it pitted the student council against the student newspaper. (And the journalists won!) Ultimate belongs to the people, not the sportocrats of Lausanne.

Of course, Ultimate still has a long road to go before you’re watching Olympians hucking and pulling and flicking. Just ask billiards, netball and waterskiing, all sports recognized by the IOC that aren’t close to actually making the Olympics. But in a world where commercial values trump sporting ones, and the only countries that seem eager to host the Olympics are authoritarian ones, inclusion in the Games with its winner-take-all attitude could dilute what makes Ultimate so special. I call foul.

Walsh was a member of Princeton’s Clockwork Orange Ultimate club team from the fall of 1997 to the spring of 1999, when he quit because they started doing wind sprints in practice. Wind sprints!

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Sports

‘Ultimate Frisbee’ Recognized by the International Olympic Committee

Disc-uss!

On Sunday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) fully recognized the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF), ultimate frisbee’s governing body, during its 128th session in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. That means ultimate frisbee is eligible for IOC funding and can compete with other sports for inclusion in future Olympic games, Sports Illustrated‘s website and Reuters report.

“This is an incredible milestone in the 30 year history of WFDF and a further important step for our International Federation in the development of our sport worldwide,” WFDF President Robert “Nob” Rauch said in a statement. “Today’s decision will give a further boost to our efforts to increasing the presence of Flying Disc sports in all countries and on all continents.”

 

 

TIME Sports

Watch a Guy ‘Surf’ Massive Waves in Tahiti on a Dirt Bike

Cowabunga!

In a video released Sunday, Australian motorbike stunt rider Robbie “Maddo” Maddison rides a dirt bike through waves at Teahupoo and Papara in Tahiti, a French Polynesian island in the Pacific Ocean. In about 24 hours, YouTube footage of the stunt, which was part of a promotion for Maddo’s shoe line with DC Shoes, generated more than 3 million views.

How did it feel? Maddison told Surfer magazine, “I’ve never felt like I was in the wrong place at the wrong time more than I did right there. It was a near-death experience.”

Past death-defying stunts include doing a backflip over London’s Tower Bridge and jumping over the Corinth Canal in Greece — both on a motorbike.

 

TIME Sports

See the Controversial Drama of Adolf Hitler’s 1936 Summer Olympics

On Aug. 3, 1936, Jesse Owens won his first gold medal. But that year's Olympic Games had a sinister side, too.

It was no surprise that the 1936 Summer Olympics were going to be complicated. The wrangling had begun months before the games, as the U.S. considered whether to pull out of the games over the suspicion that Jewish athletes were not being allowed to compete for spots on teams for the host nation, Germany. By the time Hitler and the German team opened the games that August, TIME noted that the athletic events were being overshadowed by “other doings in Berlin.” (In that issue of the magazine, the Games shared space with the news that the German church was protesting Naziism and that Charles Lindbergh was in the country and meeting top Nazi officials.)

“Whether or not the Olympic Games actually serve their purpose of promoting international understanding remains dubious,” TIME commented the following week.

The bright spot was Jesse Owens. It was on this day, Aug. 3, in 1936, that Ohio’s track phenom won the gold in the 100-m. dash, after setting a new record for that race the day before. Before the week was up, he had won at the long jump and the 200-m. dash, and helped bring a relay team to first place too.

At the Owens cabana in the Olympic Village, awed rivals crowded to feel the Owens muscles, get the Owens autograph. In Cleveland Governor Martin L. Davey decreed a Jesse Owens Day. Over the radio, Mrs. Henry Cleveland Owens described her son: “Jesse was always a face boy. . . . When a problem came up, he always faced it.” Said Face Boy Owens, before his fourth trip to the Victory Stand to have a laurel wreath stuck on his kinky head, be awarded a minute potted oak tree and the Olympic first prize of a diploma and a silver-gilt medal: “That’s a grand feeling standing up there. … I never felt like that before. . . .”

Not everyone, of course, saw Owens’ victories as highlights. Hitler famously refused to congratulate him; as TIME explained in the same story, a prominent Nazi theory to explain why the U.S. was beating the host nation so much was “that Negroes are not really people” but rather an “auxiliary force” brought in by the otherwise disappointing real (white) American team. Despite the attempt to explain away the wins with such falsehoods, Owens had proved Hitler’s theories about race differences wrong.

When Owens died in 1980, TIME noted that his time on the track ended up ultimately less important than his timing in history: “At the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, which Adolf Hitler hoped would be a showcase of Aryan supremacy, Owens won four gold medals in track and field events, a feat not equaled since. The sight of the graceful American’s soaring victory in the long jump and his Olympic-record wins in the 100-and 200-meter dashes and 400-meter relay put the lie to der Führer’s simplistic myths about race.”

Read more about Jesse Owens from 1936, here in the TIME Vault: Hero Owens

TIME Sports

164 Skydivers Set a World Record While Hurtling Headfirst Toward the Ground

They dove headfirst

Skydiving is tricky enough on its own, but trying to form a shape with 163 other people nearly 20,000 ft. in the sky is even tougher. The daunting nature of the task didn’t dissuade the group of skilled skydivers who jumped out of seven different airplanes at precise moments in an effort to set a new world record for a vertical skydiving formation.

The group succeeded, creating a formation that resembled a giant flower over central Illinois on Friday, while hurtling headfirst toward the ground at speeds of up to 240 m.p.h. It took the team, which was selected from training camps in the U.S., Spain and Australia, 13 attempts to get it right, but they ultimately broke the old record of 138 divers, set in 2012.

“It’s awesome, man,” said Rock Nelson, one of the organizers. “It just goes to show that if you can get the right group of people together and the right support team and good conditions, anything is possible … even on attempt number 13.”

The team was also accompanied by four skydiving videographers who chronicled the journey to the ground.

[AP]

 

TIME Sports

First Female NFL Coach Is an Overqualified Intern

Jen Welter, the new intern coach for the Arizona Cardinals, has a Ph.D in psychology

The Arizona Cardinals introduced Dr. Jen Welter as a coach this week. The move — believed to be the first time a team in the NFL has hired a woman to coach — prompted Vice President Joe Biden to tweet:

This is clearly a historic step. But it’s important to note that Welter has only been hired as an intern, one of seven recently added, and the length of her employment is unclear. She also seems a bit overqualified: She has a master’s degree in sports psychology and a Ph.D. in psychology.

There has been some resistance to this move. Some have questioned whether a woman can lead men on a NFL team, especially since no woman has ever played in the NFL. Such a response ignores the fact that a number of male coaches, including Vince Lombardi, Bill Belichick, and Joe Gibbs, never played in the NFL either.

There is also the argument that hiring women in leadership positions is simply a matter of fairness. But there is more to the story than simply what is “fair.” Giving women access to leadership positions expands the talent pool available to organizations. And a wider talent pool improves the quality of candidates a firm can hire.

The history of sports clearly illustrates this point. For example, prior to racial integration in baseball, which began with Jackie Robinson in 1947, the sport had a competitive balance problem. It was not uncommon for a team to win (or lose) more than 65% of their games. This disparity was made possible because the league, which only employed white males from the U.S., could not find enough talent. When it expanded its talent base, the number of talented pitchers and hitters expanded, too. A team has not won more than 65% of its games since 2001.

This rule applies to any organization: The wider your search for talent, the better the talent you are ultimately likely to employ.

Coaching, though, has historically ignored this lesson. Women comprise half of the population. But Becky Hammon was only recently named the first female assistant coach in the NBA. And now Welter is believed to be first female coach in the NFL.

Of course, Welter’s stay may be short. Unlike Hammon — who is a full-time assistant with the Spurs — Welter seems to be auditioning for a full-time job. And the criteria for staying is not entirely clear. Bruce Arians, the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, offered the following: “‘When are we going to have female coaches?’ The minute they can prove they can make a player better, they’ll be hired.”

At first glance, this seems like a reasonable requirement. After all, coaches are supposedly hired to make players better. Unfortunately, a academic study I published with Mike Leeds, Eva Leeds and Mike Mondello indicated that most NBA coaches fail to meet Arians’s criteria. In other words, most NBA coaches do not seem able to alter the productivity of individual players. A similar result was uncovered by economist JC Bradbury about the MLB.

In football, it’s likely difficult to measure the effect of individual players on the outcomes we observe. So it may be difficult for Arians to truly know that Welter is doing a great job as a coach. Of course, it’s also difficult for us to know if Arians is doing a great job, too.

What we do know is that the more people you consider for a position, the more likely you will find the best person for that job. And it probably won’t be easy in the future to get someone this educated to take an intern position in the NFL.

I suspect we’ll look back on this fact with some amazement: The first woman believed to land a coaching job in the NFL had a Ph.D. Yes, progress has been made. But the NFL would be wise to see this as only the very first step in ensuring that the very best people are considered for coaching positions in the league.

TIME technology

Robotic Sports Will One Day Rival the NFL

The thing that ultimately matters is that the sport looks incredible on video and fans have a connection to the players

When I was 13, I watched a season of Battle Bots on Comedy Central then attempted to build a killer robot in my parent’s basement. You might think, oh, you were probably a weird kid (and you’d be right) but I think eventually this is behavior that will become normal for people all around the world. It’s had some moments in the spotlight but a bunch of factors make it seem like robotic sports is destined for primetime ESPN in the next five years.

7 Reasons

1.) A drone flying through the forest looks incredible at 80mph.

A new class of bot (FPV Quadcopter) has emerged in the past few years and the footage they produce is nuts. Robots can do things we’re fascinated by but can’t generally achieve without risking our own lives. Drones the size of a dinner plate can zoom through a forest like a 3 pound insect. A bot that shoots flames can blow up a rival in a plexiglass cage.

You can make an argument that the *thrill* of these moments is lightened if a person isn’t risking their own life and limb and this is true to a certain extent. NASCAR crashes are inherently dramatic but you don’t need to burn drivers to make fans scream.

Just look at the rise of e-sports. This League of Legends team sits in an air conditioned bubble and sips Red Bull while a sold out arena screams their lungs out. They’re not in any physical danger but 31 million fans are watching online.

The thing that ultimately matters is that the sport looks incredible on video and fans have a connection to the players. And right now, the video, in raw form, is mesmerizing.

2.) Robot parts have gotten cheaper, better and easier to buy.

When I was a kid, I was limited to things available at the local Radio Shack or hardware store. Now I can go to Amazon, find parts with amazing reviews and have them delivered to my house in a day. The hobby community has had many years to develop its technology and increase quality. Brands like Fat Shark, Spektrum, and adafruit have lead the way.

3.) Top colleges fight over teenagers who win robotics competitions.

If you’re good at building a robot, chances are you have a knack for engineering, math, physics, and a litany of other skills top colleges drool over. This is exciting for anyone (at any age) but it’s especially relevant for students and parents deciding what is worth their investment.

There are already some schools that offer scholarships for e-sports. I wouldn’t be surprised if intercollegiate leagues were some of the first to pop up with traction.

4.) The military wants to get better at making robots for the battlefield.

This one is a little f***ed but it’s worth acknowledging. Drones (of all sizes) are the primary technology changing the battlefield today. DARPA has an overwhelming interest to stay current and they’re already sponsoring multimillion dollar (more academic) robotics competitions. It’s up to the community to figure out how (or how not) to involve them. Them, meaning the giant military apparatus of the United States but also military organizations around the world who want to develop and recruit the people who will power their 21st century defense (and offense).

5.) Rich people are amused by exceptional machines.

There is a reason that Rolex sponsors Le Mans. A relatively small number of people attend the race but it’s an elite mix of engineers and manufactures. Many of the people who became multimillionaires in the past 20 years got it from The Internet or some relation to the tech industry. They want to spend their money on what amuses them/their friends and robotics is a natural extension. Mark Zuckerberg recently gave one of the top drone racers in the world (Chapu) a shoutout on Facebook.

6.) The prize money is there for the taking.

This past week I went to a drone race in California with a 25k prize pool. 25k isn’t a bad start but, with the right event and legal issues addressed, its easy to imagine prize pools at many multiples of that. Brands love NASCAR because you have people staring at their logos going 200 mph. There are already a handful of FPV drone racers who are so good that a company sponsors them and its their full-time job. As prize money and production value of the events increases, its easy to imagine that you will have a much larger group who is able to commit full time. Something akin to the skaters who went pro in the 90s.

7.) Quidditch could become a real thing.

The most exciting aspect of this field is that we don’t know which robotic sport will ultimately drive the most attention and amusement. Battle Bots was the first one to get a legitimate shot at primetime on cable (and now on ABC) but it’s one of many. FPV Drone racing is incredibly popular at the moment and its easy to imagine that crazy ways it will develop. Then you have crazy things out of left field hitting the internet like the Japan Vs. USA mech fight happening early next year.

We have fantasies and robotics gives us a legitimate shot at turning them into reality.

This article originally appeared on Medium.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Boston’s 2024 Olympics Bid Could Have Been Saved

Signatures of support for Boston 2024 cover a banner on the table at a grassroots campaign in Boston on March 14, 2015.
John Tlumacki—The Boston Globe via Getty Images Signatures of support for Boston 2024 cover a banner on the table at a grassroots campaign in Boston on March 14, 2015.

It needed a bold statement of commitment to the city—not the Olympics

Boston’s pursuit of Olympic gold has been dying a slow death over the past seven months.

The final nail in the coffin came Monday, when Mayor Marty Walsh refused to sign a taxpayer guarantee as requested by the Unites States Olympic Committee (USOC), which would have taken effect in the event of cost overruns and revenue shortfalls.

As the city’s chief public official, Walsh was right to hold the line, to protect taxpayers and safeguard the future fiscal health and economic growth of the city and region.

But before the Walsh rebuff, Boston 2024 had other big hurdles to overcome. From the beginning, the bid played as a struggle between Boston’s business elite and commoners – the powerful versus powerless, the haves versus have-nots.

The Boston 2024 Olympic committee read as a who’s who of Boston corporate giants and sports celebrities. Those opposed included a collection of concerned residents, city councilors, local politicians and academics.

Boston 2024 and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) saw it necessary to alter and access neighborhoods, institutions and roads to accommodate Olympics venues, athletes and media. Those opposed said not so fast – we live and work here, want to know the true costs and would like to be included in the planning.

And tidbits such as assuring exclusive travel lanes on highways for IOC VIPs, athletes and corporate sponsors, and the high salaries and compensation for Boston 2024 staff and consultants, only added fuel to the haves versus have-nots narrative.

In the end, this narrative and, ultimately, the failed Olympic bid is unfortunate. As executive director of Wheelock College’s Aspire Institute, a social and education innovation center, I’ve seen and studied firsthand the many problems that plague Boston, from crumbling schools to endemic homelessness.

While the Boston 2024 bid raised many questions about the priorities of its backers, it also offered a historic opportunity to catalyze new development and transform the city in key ways. Boston 2024 could have been saved with only a bit more vision and a bold statement of commitment to the city – not the Olympics – by backers.

The wrong priorities

The prevailing narrative stems from the perceived sharp contrast between the priorities of the bidding committee and those of Bostonians.

At the same time as Boston 2024 proposed spending billions to construct new venues, the Boston Public Schools (BPS) announced its own 10-year Educational and Facility Master Plan.

While the former involved building an Olympic stadium, aquatics center, velodrome and an US$800 million deck over Widett Circle, the latter aimed to improve the physical condition of BPS’s 133 aging school facilities, expand early childhood programs, support dual language learners and children with special needs and promote STEM learning and technology-enhanced education.

Boston 2024 revealed slick plans for an Athletes’ Village that would be converted, post-Olympics, to 2,700 dorm beds for the University of Massachusetts’ Boston campus and 8,000 housing units nine years from now.

Yet this wouldn’t address the current housing crisis. Boston leads all of the 25 major US cities in the number of residents living in emergency shelters. Massachusetts also has one of the highest rates of family homelessness of any state in the country.

Further, Transportation for Massachusetts (a local coalition of organizations advocating for new transportation policy and initiatives) and TRIP (a national nonpartisan transportation research group) warned of the state’s huge need to invest in its system of roads, highways, bridges and public transportation in order to support economic growth, ensure safety, protect the environment and enhance residents’ quality of life.

Boston 2024 agreed that transportation enhancements were needed and critical to hosting a successful Olympics. Yet they had no plans to contribute funding to these enhancements.

Could Boston 2024 have been saved?

Whether the critiques of Boston 2024 are fair or not, the casualty of Boston’s derailed bid is the loss of a truly historic opportunity for long-term, large-scale economic and community development.

Plans included development of two new neighborhoods in currently underdeveloped, underinvested areas, as well as the creation of new public spaces and commercial areas. Lost too is the $4 billion in private investment, creation of thousands of jobs and intensified scrutiny of and urgency to improve our outdated transportation infrastructure. I concur with Boston 2024 Chairman Steve Pagliuca that this could have been “the biggest economic development opportunity of our lifetimes.”

What would have saved Boston 2024? What could have countered the anti-bid arguments and sentiments?

One bold move: Boston 2024 and the business leaders behind it should have pledged planning, support and private funding for economic community development in the city, regardless of whether Boston won the bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Such a pledge would have instantly and powerfully communicated the goodwill, commitment and intent of Boston 2024 leaders to all of Boston and Massachusetts. And this pledge could have had important, reasonable caveats.

For example, in the case of a failed bid, the pledge might be downsized to $2 billion in private investment (half of the current goal), a focus on just residential and commercial development projects and the already committed public capital funding.

Tax breaks and other incentives to developers – as proposed in the Olympic plan – would still lure private investors, and the city would still benefit from the projected tax revenue from new residential and commercial areas. Gone would be the billions in projected Olympic revenues. But the important community development would have gone forward.

Would such a pledge have been a long shot? A huge risk for business leaders? Of course, but so was Boston 2024 all along. Perhaps the risk was not having gone this far, in making this “no matter what” pledge.

As Chairman Pagliuca put it: “The riskiest move of all can be watching an opportunity slip away.”

This article originally appeared on The ConversationThe Conversation

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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