The government allocated HUF 204 billion (EUR 556.5 million) of public funds for Budapest’s new Athletics stadium and its adjacent infrastructure to be made ready for the upcoming World Championships, 24.hu revealed. This is HUF 14 billion more than the recently inaugurated, state-of-the-art Puskás Aréna.
Budapest is set to host the World Athletics Championships in 2023, one of the highest ranked international sports events Hungary has ever had the chance to organize. For the event, a new stadium is planned on the border of Ferencváros (9th district) and Csepel (21st district) by the Danube river. The facility is designed to seat 40,000 spectators during the competitions, and it would be reduced to 15,000 afterwards to then serve as a venue and center of Hungarian athletics.
The future site being a brown field at the moment, besides the stadium, adjacent buildings, landscaping, and flood protective infrastructure are also to be built, in addition to a pedestrian and cycling bridge.
While the government has regularly argued that such a large-scale event would be beneficial for the whole country, likewise the new buildings, the stadium met with opposition from environmentalists and residents. They say that such a central site located by the river could be used in a more green and resident-friendly way and not for another ‘concrete jungle.’ And while athletes were fond of the project and even organized a minor demonstration in support of it, opposition politicians also criticized the plans, mentioning similar arguments in addition to what they regard as the ‘stealthy Olympics’ project of Orbán, after the PM let go (or according to many, he only put on hold) his dreams for Hungary to host an Olympics. As a consequence, after ruling Fidesz was beaten at the 2019 municipal elections in Budapest, the central government was forced to strike a bargain with them, and agreed to allocate HUF 50 billion (EUR 136.4 million) to healthcare developments in the capital, in addition to, for example, a mass sports center, forestation in Northern Csepel, and the re-installment of the Vituki public baths (the original site of which will be occupied by the stadium).
As to the pricing, many draw a parallel with Puskás Aréna. In comparison with other world-class, newly-built stadiums of similar size worldwide, the Puskás Aréna emerged overly expensive with its price totaling HUF 190 billion (EUR 518.3 million); still, it is able to seat 67,000. In addition, it had originally been planned to be suitable for athletics too, not only for football, something that had been modified along the way to cut the sky-rocketing costs. As Puskás Aréna’s costs went up over time, it is unlikely that the planned price of the Athletics Stadium will end up as the final amount at the time of the inauguration.
The government calculates that the organization of the Athletics World Championships will only amount to HUF 30 billion (EUR 81.8 million), and expects the income to far surpass this sum.
featured image: works started at the site of the new stadium; via László Róka/MTVA