Budapest 2024 Olympic Bid Opponent Spins Question To Get New Referendum Approved

After reporting Wednesday that a call for a national referendum over Budapest’s 2024 Olympic Bid had been rejected by Hungary’s National Election Committee, has learned that the journalist behind two previous referendum proposals has now submitted a third that was already approved by the Budapest Election Committee Thursday.

Budapest 2024 Olympic bid logo is unveiled at a ceremony overlooking the Danube River April 14, 2016 (Budapest 2024 Photo)
Budapest 2024 Olympic bid logo is unveiled at a ceremony overlooking the Danube River April 14, 2016 (Budapest 2024 Photo)

The Hungarian Supreme Court can now consider any appeals to this decision within the next 15 days.

The new referendum would be a city-wide vote – not like the national vote rejected the previous day – and would require proponents to collect signatures from ten per cent of the Budapest population (about 140,000 signatures) over thirty days in order for it to move forward.  The national vote would have required 200,000 signatures in 120 days.

Investigative journalist Katalin Erdélyi, the same person behind two previous attempts – an earlier municipal proposal and Wednesday’s national question – is also behind the new request.  Her original municipal motion was overturned by Hungary’s Supreme Court in January because, it ruled, a decision to bid was already made last year and it has the support of Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

If you are finding it difficult to follow these rapidly changing and confusing efforts to bring down Budapest’s bid, you’re not alone.

Investigative Journalist Katalin Erdélyi (Átlátszó.hu)
Investigative Journalist Katalin Erdélyi (Átlátszó.hu)

Wednesday’s national question was reportedly rejected by the committee on several grounds.  According to Daily News Hungary “it targeted an office already set up with a budget, that it would affect international contracts through the Olympic symbols, that it would affect tax and duty laws and also that it was not phrased clearly.”

“Hungary’s constitution bans holding referendums on issues affecting international contracts and tax matters.”

Erdelyi said she was disappointed but not surprised by Wednesday’s National Election Committee decision.

The new proposed Budapest referendum question is simple, it asks if residents agree that the Budapest 2024 Olympic bid should be withdrawn.

The question that was rejected Wednesday asked if voters agree that the national law enacting the bid should be rescinded.

Budapest 2024 and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will be watching this closely.  An initial five city field has already been reduced to four after Hamburg narrowly lost its referendum last year despite majority support in opinion polls prior to the vote.  A bid from Rome could end its quest as early as Friday, the deadline to submit further campaign documents required by the IOC.  Internal politics has left the Italian bid without Mayoral support, a required element to host the Games.

Critics of the Olympic bid consider organizing the Games too expensive and too risky.

The IOC will choose a host city for the Games September 13, 2017 in Lima, Peru.

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.

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