Approved Initiative Could Force Budapest 2024 Olympic Bid Referendum As Early As Spring

Hungary Olympic Committee Logo

Hungary Olympic Committee Logo

Residents of Budapest are one step closer to having their say over whether their city bids for 2024 Olympic Games, or steps aside as Hamburg did last month when German voters rejected a bid.

On Monday the Budapest voting committee approved an initiative to circulate a petition with the goal of collecting 140,000 signatures that are needed to force a referendum over the city’s plans to continue to bid for the Games.

According to Hungarian news Website Index there are 15 days to appeal the committee’s decision but supporters of the initiative are confident that it will make it through the courts.  If so, the collection of signatures could begin in January.  A referendum would then follow in the spring or summer.

The “NO-Nepszavazast az Olimpiarol” initiative, which translates as “Referendum on the Olympic Games”, was launched by a committee headed by Katalin Erdelyi. who said they do not agree with governing politicians making decisions without public consultation on the HUF 800 billion being spent to host the 2024 Games in Budapest.

On Monday a new IPSOS poll revealed that 60 percent in Budapest would be “happy” if the city hosted the Games in 2024 with only 29 percent opposing, up from earlier surveys that showed support at around 50 percent.

In Hamburg last month similar polls also showed around 60 percent support but heavy campaigning on the “no” side resulted in a defeat with 51.7 percent ultimately rejecting the Games.

IOC President Thomas Bach (left) and Hungarian Olympic Committee President Borkai Zsolt (MOB Photo)

IOC President Thomas Bach (left) and Hungarian Olympic Committee President Borkai Zsolt (MOB Photo)

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach was in the Capital to help the Hungarian Olympic Committee celebrate its 120th anniversary Monday and was guest of honour at a gala held in the State Opera House.

Bach said that Budapest is a strong candidate for the Games as it follows the Agenda 2020 framework with the use of existing facilities.  He told Germany’s MTI there is no need for a referendum but that public support is necessary.

Also Monday Budapest 2024 appointed popular Hungarian Olympic swimming champion Agnes Kovacs to lead the Athletes’ Commission for the bid.

Budapest is bidding for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games against Paris, Los Angeles and Rome.  The IOC will elect a host city in 2017.

About Robert Livingstone

A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.