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Reqiuem For The Olympic Tender (And Some Lessons Learned)

We cannot write about the sudden withdrawal of the Budapest Olympic tender without being emotional. Why? Because it hurts.

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Therefore, we need to ask all of us: why can’t this nation unite when it comes to national issues? Why do politics and the struggle for power divide us so heavily? And the opposition has a major responsibility here once again: Is this how you build a nation and come to national consensus? By constantly belittling it and dragging it down? Regardless of a cost/benefit analysis and the scary financial projections, this Olympics would have been one of Hungary’s greatest accomplishments ever. For this reason, it cannot be looked at only in terms of a sheer cost/benefit analysis. From the overall aspect, therefore, it is almost meaningless how much the new Puskás stadium may cost and who will build it.

Yes, cost and the recovery of that cost continue to be legitimate issues from the taxpayers’ point of view. Some Olympics have been profitable, some incurred a loss. Among the profitable Olympic ventures were: London in 1908, Los Angeles in 1932, London in 1948, Los Angeles in 1984, Seoul in 1988, Barcelona in 1992, Atlanta in 1996, Beijing in 2008. Rio is still up in the air. What may be hindering the success of organizing the Olympics in different cities from time to time is the fate of the infrastructure in the aftermath. Can these cities utilize the infrastructure that was specially built for the games? CNN recently ran a piece tackling this issue. Their answer may lie in a permanent Olympic site in a non-aligned (neutral) country that everyone agrees on. Of course, it will not be easy.

Here is CNN’s opinion piece: “By focusing on upgrading existing infrastructure, rather than launching whole new projects, a permanent site might help mitigate the egregious environmental effects that are associated with constructing venues for Summer and Winter Games alike. In doing this, the Games might also find themselves less dependent on corporate investment, helping them return to their roots and helping meet one of the IOC’s definitions of the Olympic movement: Opposition to all forms of commercial exploitation of sport and athletes.”

In the meantime, in this recent debate about the Olympics, the patriotic people of Hungary have expressed their sentiments clearly: they wish to lift the entire nation by bidding for the organizing rights.  And they seemed to have been resisting all those who stood in the way. Yes, the cynicism of the opposition may have worked in the short run. They may have won a “battle” yet again, perhaps for the last time. But they will likely lose the war in the long run. Rest in peace naysayers!

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So, now that Budapest has voluntarily withdrawn its tender, we need to backtrack and re-transmit the Hungarian nation’s development efforts. Yes, there are pending social issues to address, particularly health care and education. Also, we need to be a more inclusive society, with a fair tax code that helps to reduce (and not increase) the economic divide. But one lesson that people have learned once again: when it comes to a supranational matter like the Olympics, the opposition needs to be a constructive partner and they need to learn not to obstruct the process. Because pride, national security and nation building are key elements in a nation’s survival and prosperity.

Adam Topolansky