Budapest To End Bid For 2024 Olympics

Budapest is to withdraw its bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games, according to government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs, following a meeting between Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Budapest Mayor Istvan Tarlos, and the Hungarian Olympic Committee.

The decision by the three will be formally voted on by the Budapest City Assembly.

Fidesz, the governing party, said the decision was made to avoid “a loss of international prestige” for Hungary, saying the bid had a very small chance of success.

The bid was expected to face a city-wide referendum after an opposition group gathered more than 266,000 signatures in favour of holding a vote.

Proponents of Budapest’s Olympic project claimed its bid was a logical fit for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Agenda 2020 bid reforms that call for sustainability, efficiency and a strong legacy.  Bid officials said the model, that used many existing venues and provided new needed venues by redeveloping derelict land, had the most compact footprint and would prove that mid-sized cities could still host the Games.

Bid Chief Balazs Furjes claimed that by ignoring Budapest, the IOC would only be welcoming mega-citiy hosts for years to come.  After the news of the bid’s demise broke, Furjes tweeted “thanks for the Olympic Family for all the encouragement, experience and enthusiasm we had in this wonderful journey.”

Passers by read an Olympic bid poster at the Citadella in Budapest Hungary February 20, 2017 (GamesBids Photo)
Passers by read an Olympic bid poster at the Citadella in Budapest Hungary February 20, 2017 (GamesBids Photo)

Earlier in the week Mayor Tarlos had predicted the bid might be withdrawn Wednesday if he and Prime Minister Orban didn’t see eye-to-eye on support.  But on Tuesday, at the opening of the city’s new Danube Arena that is set to host the World Aquatics Championships this year, Furjes predicted that the bid would still have weeks to build unity and then it could move forward to fight the referendum.

After delaying the international launch of the bid first scheduled for February 3, Budapest 2024 was hoping to hold the kickoff instead this week until the Momentum Mozgalom political group delivered the referendum petition to the elections committee on Friday.  Instead, organizers hoped to begin a referendum campaign that was to begin Wednesday evening with a debate between Furjes and the Momentum group.

The Momentum group told in a statement last week “we are greatly disappointed by the lack of engagement on the side supporting the bid given the large amount of money that has already been pumped into their campaign, we would have expected them to act more responsibly and defend the cause they seemingly stand for.”

A poll released Wednesday by Median indicated that about 50 per cent of Hungarians wanted the bid to be withdrawn with that number increasing to 56 per cent in Budapest.

In 2015 Hamburg in Germany dropped out of the 2024 race when it narrowly lost a city-wide vote, and last year Rome withdrew when a newly-elected Mayor opposed the project.

With only Paris and Los Angeles left in the race, the 2024 bid is closely mirroring that of the 2022 Winter Games when four applicant cities dropped out leaving only two, winner Beijing and Almaty in Kazakhstan, at the end.

Budapest was widely considered an outsider against Los Angeles and Paris.  The IOC will vote on the host city for the 2024 Olympics on September 13 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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