An organization in Budapest claims they have the resources to finally get a referendum over the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid off the ground in the Hungarian Capital.
Calls for such a referendum are nothing new, there were multiple such requests last year at both federal and municipal levels in Hungary. No vote has been held, however, as there was never an organized effort to gather the tens of thousands of signatures that are required to move forward.
András Fekete-Győr of the Hungarian youth organization named Momentum Mozgalom has organized the NOlimpia campaign in Budapest aimed squarely on ending the city’s Olympic aspirations. He says his group is not against the Olympics, they respect the Olympic Movement and the Fundamental Principles of Olympism.
“Many of us followed the Olympics last year very closely, and we are all proud of our nation’s remarkable historic successes,” Fekete-Győr told GamesBids.com.
“We need to fix healthcare, education, housing, transportation and living standards in our country first. Once we get there, and once hosting the Olympic Games won’t be a luxury, we will be first in line to support our bid.”
“The current bidding process unfortunately does not promote the economical realization of Olympic Games.”
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recently reformed the bid process with its Agenda 2020 rules that allow for a more sustainable and economical organization of the Games, and that could open the door to mid-sized cities like Budapest to host. But as these new rules wait to be tested in this full bid cycle, both Tokyo 2020 and Rio 2016 have faced delays and cost overruns that are maintaining the negative public opinion that hosting the Games is risky.
A Budapest 2024 spokesperson told GamesBids.com Monday that they support open discussion about the bid and the committee has provided public forums for debate about the project and there are plans to continue the process in the coming weeks. The bid strongly believes that with Agenda 2020, Budapest 2024 is a responsible, national project.
NOlimpia picked up speed last month when on December 7 they filed the referendum question and it was subsequently approved by the municipal election board. Then, the group began to ramp up for the next step.
“Our organization has almost 150 members and we have received applications from hundreds of volunteers in the past 3 days,” Fekete-Győr said Saturday.
Last year investigative journalist Katalin Erdélyi had a municipal referendum question approved but since she was acting alone she was unable to collect the required signatures.
“The difficulty of collecting signatures is best exemplified by the fact that our city has never had a local referendum before,” Fekete-Győr said, “but we reckon that with about 1500 to 2000 activists we have a chance to write history and prove the regime wrong.”
Momentum Mozgalom is a politically motivated group opposing sitting Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
He added “locals will be able to sign our forms at 20-25 stands around the city, our activists will go door-to-door, and the form will also be available to download from our website, and be submitted to us via post.”
“We need to collect 138 thousand signatures within 30 days in order to have a referendum over the bid.
“We are ready to start collecting signatures anytime.”
The relevant authorities are set to supply the forms and NOlimpia will begin to collect signatures Thursday.
NOlympia is not doing this alone. Prior to launching their campaign, NOlympia reached out to the organizers of both the ‘No Boston Olympics’ campaign and the ‘NOlympia-Hamburg’ movement.
The group has been in contact with ‘No Boston Olympics’ founder Chris Dempsey – the force behind the public revolt against the Boston 2024 Olympic Games bid that was later forced to dissolve when the Mayor withdrew his endorsement under extreme pressure.
Dempsey was also connected with the defeated referendum in Hamburg that ended the German city’s 2024 Olympic bid. He said he was first in contact with bid opponents in Hungary last January, and just recently discussed the referendum with the NOlimpia group on Sunday.
He told GamesBids.com “Referenda are often an effective tool for Olympic bid opponents. More often than not, voters in potential host cities vote down a bid.”
“The IOC markets the process as a ‘race’ to be won, but actually it’s an auction — and often not one worth winning, or even entering, when residents have other priorities for their tax dollars.”
Dempsey’s signature methods are easily visible on the NOlimpia campaign that has already published a compelling Website along with a full complement of social media accounts that are active and viral.
Budapest 2024 officials have released survey results that show two-thirds of residents are in favour of a bid for the Games, but Fekete-Győr rejects those numbers.
“The bid committee is asking misleading questions: they refer to their own survey about how people would ‘take pride’ in hosting the Olympic Games,” he said.
“Independent surveys, such as the one conducted by Publicus Institute show that three-quarters of the respondents believe that it would cost us too much; two-thirds of the people are also afraid of corruption.
“Even among those 45% who support hosting the Olympic Games in Budapest in 2024, half of the supporters change their mind once they are made aware of the expenses.”
But the Budapest bid spokesperson said that a new public opinion survey will be released shortly and it will better reflect the improving national opinion of the project.
A third and final set of bid documents are due into the IOC from Budapest and rivals Los Angeles and Paris on February 3. The IOC Evaluation Commission is set to conduct site visits in April and May and are due to arrive in Budapest on May 10.
At that time IOC officials could agree to meet with any opposition groups as part of their vetting process.
The IOC will vote for the winning 2024 host city September 13 in Lima, Peru.
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.