Mayor Considers Withdrawal of Budapest 2024 Olympic Bid As Early As Wednesday

Budapest Mayor Istvan Tarlos is considering the possibility of submitting a motion to the Ciy Assembly to withdraw the city’s 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid.  It could happen as early as Wednesday, Bloomberg reports.

Proposed Budapest 2024 Olympic Stadium (Budapest 2024 depiction)
Proposed Budapest 2024 Olympic Stadium (Budapest 2024 depiction)

The doubts come on the submission of an overwhelming petition to the city’s Elections Committee to call for a referendum overf the Olympic bid.  On Friday, the political group Momentum Mozgalom announced that its NOlimpia campaign had collected over 266,000 signatures – more than the required 138,000 representing 10 per cent of eligible voters – to force a vote over the bid.

Hungarian President Viktor Orban has been a strong advocate of the bid, and the backlash of a referendum and its possible defeat may be seen as a blow to his re-election campaign next year.  In recent polls, a majority are against the Olympic bid.

Sensing that the bid may be losing the support of Orban’s government, Mayor Tarlos is considering the withdrawal instead of facing the public vote.  The Mayor had previously indicated that a withdrawal could be possible if opponents collected enough signatures for the referendum.

Orban and Tarlos met on the issue Friday after the NOlimpia results were announced, and are expected to meet again Wednesday when decisions over the fate of the bid could be made.  The Budapest City Assembly and the Hungarian Government will hold separate meetings in advance.

If the bid remains in play, the Election Committee has 45 days to verify the results, then the city’s General Assembly will have 30 days to set a referendum date to occur 50 to 70 days in the future.  Counting the possibility of appeals, and delays in organizing City Assembly decisions – a referendum could occur anywhere from May to October this year.  The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will elect the winner from among Los Angeles and Paris on September 13.

The NOlimpia campaign collects over 266 thousand signatures against Budapest 2024 Olympic bid (NOlimpia Facebook Photo)
The NOlimpia campaign collected over 266,000 signatures against Budapest 2024 Olympic bid (NOlimpia Facebook Photo)

A NOlimpia spokesperson told Friday “it would be cowardly by Mr. Orban and Mr. Tarlos to withdraw the bid without asking the people: they would betray even those who support the Olympic Games.”

“They should not step back from a referendum, but take the courage to ask the people.”

“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.”

To focus on weakening support at home, Budapest 2024 delayed the launch of their international marketing campaign that had been originally set to begin February 3.

Hungarian Olympic Committee Chair Zsolt Borkai blamed politics for the failing support of the Games bid.  President Orban represents the right-wing party while the Momentum group are to the left.  The signature collection campaign, he believes, was politically motivated.

“With this activity, they have greatly weakened and constantly weaken Budapest’s chances and weaken Hungary’s bid,” Borkai said.

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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