2016 Top 10: #10 Budapest 2024 Dodges Referendum ‘Threats’ Throughout Year presents the ninth annual Top Ten list of Olympic Bid Stories for 2016. These stories impacted the course of Olympic host city bids, or the Olympic bid process, and formed interesting plot lines and story arcs for the year. We’ll run them down from 10th to 1st as the year ends – click on the links for details.

Top Olympic Bid Stories of 2016: #10 – Budapest 2024 Dodges Referendum ‘Threats’ Throughout Year

Hungarian Parliament in Budapest
Hungarian Parliament in Budapest (Photo: hunszabi – Indafoto)

It’s no secret, municipal referendums often end Olympic Games bids.

Since a referendum over Vancouver’s 2010 Olympic bid was won with 64 per cent support – and the Canadian city went on to host those Games – a string of similar votes, or even the prospect of facing such a vote, has instead ended bids across Europe and North America.

Recent defeated referendums brought quick closure to bids from Hamburg and Krakow.  Lost public votes held back potential bids from Munich and Davos, Switzerland.  The mere thought of the political fallout from losing a referendum last year prompted Mayors from Boston and Toronto push back on bid plans from their respective cities.

The fact that referendums generally draw greater interest and participation from bid opponents and voter turnout is typically skewed against the project means that even bids that have popular support often lose in a public vote.

That’s why Budapest 2024 Olympic bid officials closely followed calls for a referendum to be held over the Hungarian bid to host the Games even as the campaign enjoys 62 per cent support in recent polling.

Investigative journalist Katalin Erdélyi has been relentless in her attempts to get a referendum approved at either the national or municipal level, and has filed several requests that have been approved by the Elections Committee.  In some cases they have been appealed and later blocked by the Hungarian High Court.

In November her municipal request to ask “do you agree that the Budapest Municipality should withdraw its application to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024?” was approved and not appealed, however Erdélyi failed to collect 140,000 signatures across Budapest required to execute the referendum plans.  She claimed the municipal body gave her short notice and she did not have time to collect the signatures within the allotted thirty days.

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

Erdélyi told that she would keep trying to get a referendum approved moving forward, at both the municipal and national levels.  She said a new national request has already been filed and that is a more advantageous route for her as it allows three months to collect 220,000 signatures.

She said “I think the Olympic Games are too expensive for Hungary, and Hungarian people have the right to decide if they want it or not.”

“It is of course the democratic right of every citizen of Budapest to seek a referendum on a matter of public policy in the city and we entirely respect that right,” Balázs Fürjes, Chairman of Budapest 2024 said in November.

“We strongly encourage public debate and are delighted by the support and encouragement that we continue to receive.”

Budapest rivals Los Angeles and Paris do not require and have not planned referendums regarding their bids.  The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will elect the winner in September.

Watch or follow us on Twitter or Facebook and read the other top stories for the year as they’re posted, or listed below.  We’ll be counting down until January 1.

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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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