International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach Saturday said a political group in Hungary with ulterior motives is to blame for the referendum threat faced by Budapest’s 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid.
On Friday fledgling left-wing political youth group Momentum Mozgalom announced it had collected over 266,000 signatures of voters in Budapest who want a referendum held over the Olympic bid. If validated, the City Assembly would be required to hold a binding vote over the Olympic project.
Bach said the group “wanted to make a name.”
The Momentum group oppose President Viktor Orban and hope to run against him in next year’s elections in Hungary.
“The referendum is obviously considered by them to be a good tool to put themselves on the map of the political landscape in Hungary,” Bach told the Associated Press.
“This procedure as it is … in our political environment in such a fragile world just produces too many losers.”
A majority of those recently polled oppose the bid, and with the danger that the referendum could be lost, Orban’s support for the project is weakening due to the political risk. The Budapest Mayor will meet with the President Wednesday and could cancel the project even before the referendum date is set.
With the possibility that Budapest could prematurely exit the race, there has been renewed interest in the concept of awarding both the 2024 and 2028 Olympic Games to Paris and Los Angeles at the same meeting scheduled September 13 in Lima, Peru. Bach first addressed the possibility in December when he aired concerns that the bid process created “too many losers,” and later said that the idea was worth studying.
On Saturday he warmed to the idea.
He told Associated Press “I like it that people are talking in this about the Olympic candidature procedure.”
“It shows that people are caring. This we appreciate very much.”
But that’s far from an endorsement of the plan, and even further from the execution of a strategy that would likely be opposed by many voting IOC members who consider the host city election vote a valuable perk in their job descriptions.
Officials from Los Angeles and Paris have commented cautiously on the possibility, both claiming that only a 2024 Games are in focus – a wise tactic in the strategic Olympic bid race. They both also say that they’re open to IOC input.
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.