The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Friday said there may be adjustments to the bid process ahead after Budapest’s sudden withdrawal from the 2024 Olympic bid race, leaving only Los Angeles and Paris to fight for the prize.
The mayor of Hungary’s capital abandoned the bid Wednesday after more than 266,000 signatures were collected on a petition that would have forced a referendum over the project. Recent polls suggested that the public opposed the bid.
IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said, according to Reuters, “it is disappointing that this (Budapest) decision had to be taken – the candidature committee had presented an excellent project, which has built on the reforms contained in Olympic Agenda 2020″
“It also demonstrated that smaller cities and smaller countries can stage the Olympic Games in a feasible and sustainable way.
“With regard to the candidature procedure as such, the political situation in our fragile world requires us to make adjustments in this respect as the current procedure produces too many losers.
“These adjustments will be discussed with all the stakeholders of the Olympic Movement. In the meantime, the candidature procedure for the Olympic Games 2024 will continue with the two excellent candidatures of Los Angeles and Paris,” he said.
But this week Paris has faced opposition with an upstart online petition that has collected over 5,000 signatures. While a referendum in the French Capital is not required, it’s important for the bid committee to maintain public support ahead of the IOC’s three-day Evaluation Commission visit set to begin May 14. The IOC will conduct its own public opinion polls for both LA and Paris, and will publish the results in July.
Since the IOC approved Olympic Agenda 2020, a 40-point proposal that includes reforms to the Olympic bid process that are intended to support cost-efficient sustainable bid plans with strong legacies, several cities that were expected to benefit have instead dropped out of the running.
The 2024 race was five strong at the outset before Hamburg was defeated in a referendum and Rome withdrew when the newly elected Mayor dropped her support for the project. Boston didn’t even make it across the start line before public opposition forced the project to be abandoned. With Budapest out, only two cities remain.
The 2022 Olympic Winter Games bid started with six cities, but four European campaigns dropped out of the race leaving only winner Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan at the end.
Earlier this month the Swiss 2026 Olympic bid from Davos was soundly defeated in a referendum, though another candidate from Sion is still in the running but could face a vote of its own. Several more cities have refrained from bidding over the past few years over fears of cost over runs, corruption and a legacy of white elephants.
Adding to the push back of hosting future Games are the results of both the Sochi 2014 Games that reportedly sunk a record-setting (USD) $51 billion into the project, and Rio 2016 that essentially ran out of money before the Games were delivered after suffering a devastating recession that started shortly after the city was chosen in 2009. Both cities are now struggling with unused venues and a burdensome legacy.
LA 2024 bid Chair Casey Wasserman released a statement Friday regarding Budapest’s withdrawal.
He said “all of us at LA 2024 are disappointed in this news. We have the highest respect for Budapest 2024’s pioneering approach to designing and promoting their bid, and we look forward to continued friendship with our Hungarian colleagues.
“The world is entering an era of unprecedented change. This is the ‘new reality’ for the Olympic Movement and it calls for new thinking.
“We believe that now, more than ever, the IOC must focus on selecting a 2024 Host City that redefines sustainability, connects the Olympic Movement and its benefits to the world’s youth like never before and encourages future cities to bid for their Games.”
IOC President Thomas Bach has been considering awarding both the 2024 and 2028 Games to Los Angeles and Paris at the session in Lima, Peru in September – an effort thought to guarantee capable hosts for the next two quadrennials while buying time to figure out how to solve the problem and improve public perception of the Olympics.
But the novel idea isn’t being received well by IOC members who value the opportunity to elect bid cities as a primary perk of their volunteer positions.
One thing is clear though, change will be necessary to move forward.
A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com 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.