Budapest 2024 Delays International Campaign As Referendum Signatures Exceed 70,000

Budapest’s bid to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games will delay the scheduled launch of its international promotion phase, it was announced Sunday, amid a campaign by bid opponents to collect enough signatures to force a municipal referendum.

Proposed Budapest 2024 Olympic Park (Budapest 2024 depiction)

Proposed Budapest 2024 Olympic Park (Budapest 2024 depiction)

The “NOlimpia” group has been given 30 days to collect 138,000 signatures and trigger a referendum over Budapest’s Olympic project and on Sunday the group announced that it is already halfway to the target with over 70,000 signatures and 20 days remaining in the window.  The deadline is February 18.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has set a February 3 deadline for the bids, including rivals Los Angeles and Paris, to submit the third and final set of documents – a milestone that also allows the three campaigns the option to begin promoting their projects internationally.

International promotion typically includes advertising over the Internet, on television or in print, and in conjunction with international events.

A statement released by Budapest 2024 Sunday said “the time for big celebrations come after 13th September.”  Up until now the focus for the bid has been to optimize plans and build up important domestic support – and that’s something Budapest officials will want to continue to reinforce until the possibility of a referendum passes.

Should NOlimpia reach it’s goal and earn a referendum, the bid team will need to refocus on solidifying local support in order to win and get the bid to the final election scheduled for Lima, Peru on September 13.

A Hungarian Youth Organization seeks referendum over Budapest 2024 Olympic Bid (Facebook)

A Hungarian Youth Organization seeks referendum over Budapest 2024 Olympic Bid (Facebook)

Though last week Budapest 2024 officials released a poll showing that 63 per cent support the bid, and city council voted overwhelmingly to approve the project – winning a referendum against a wave of opposition will be a new challenge.  In 2015 a Hamburg 2024 bid was narrowly defeated in a referendum even after polls showed local support above 60 per cent.

The statement said “our first priority during this period is to continue to engage with the people of Budapest on the reasons why the Games would improve their lives.”

The statement released by Budapest 2024 on Sunday follows in full below:

Budapest 2024 has taken the decision not to launch our international campaign at the beginning of February as originally planned. 

The reason for this is related to the fact that signatures are being collected to decide whether a referendum will be held in Budapest about the 2024 Olympics and Paralympic Games. We have always welcomed debate and discussion around our bid and continue to do so. Only earlier this month, we recently announced a double digit growth in popular support for the bid and we are proud that 71% of young people support the bid and the idea of Budapest hosting the 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. It is therefore important to us that we focus on sustaining this positive situation.  

Clearly our first priority during this period is to continue to engage with the people of Budapest on the reasons why the Games would improve their lives –  create jobs, improve career opportunities for young people, enhance transport, and provide much needed new affordable housing for students, young people and families. We will also continue to demonstrate that this a fiscally responsible and economically sound investment in the future of our city. 

Our original plan this week, as with all of our activities, embraced the spirit of Agenda 2020. We genuinely believe that the time for big celebrations come after 13th September. Our commitment to the bid process remains unwavering and we look forward to submitting the third document file on Friday 3rd February.

– Budapest 2024

Robert Livingstone

About Robert Livingstone

Robert Livingstone is a senior editor, award-winning journalist and author, covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. He is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians. Follow him @enotsgnivil