The general assembly of Budapest has unanimously (including Fidesz voters) voted to support plans to host the 2023 World Athletics Championships if the government meets the conditions of the opposition-led city. However, according to Gergely Karácsony, thus far only one of those has been fulfilled.
After the vote, Karácsony explained the city was seeking “a good compromise” and argued that “we should listen to not only sports people but also to voters who think that too much has been spent on competitive sports and too little on health care.”
One of the city’s preconditions is that the planned stadium in the 9th district to host the events should be constructed as a facility that serves local participant sports and could also be used for cultural events as part of a recreational park. Secondly, the government should increase the budget for the Healthy Budapest Program by at least 50 billion HUF (EUR 150m) to improve the district’s health services.
Then, with a view to expand green spaces in the city, work should begin on the forestation project by creating at least 100 hectares of green space in Northern Csepel (21st district). The city also expects the government to meet previously contracted obligations with regard to public transport, and start re-cultivation of brown zone sites. Karácsony also insisted on the transparency of the project, namely that all the contracts must be made public.
Earlier in the week, Balázs Fürjes, government commissioner for major Budapest investments, praised the 9th district mayor Krisztina Baranyi for being willing to cooperate. Fürjes told leftist Klubrádió, that “one month ago, he wouldn’t have thought that he could cooperate with one of the government’s fiercest opponents.” Baranyi’s conditions included the re-installment of Vituki public baths, the cleansing of the Ráckeve Duna-branch’s riverbed, a mass sports center around the stadium, and healthcare improvements in the district.
Yesterday, during the assembly's meeting, a demonstration took place in front of City Hall. The athletes - including Olympic champion hammer thrower Krisztián Pars - took their stance in support of hosting the event.
For now (almost) everyone seems happy
Fidesz politicians were enthusiastic that Baranyi and Karácsony “are knocking on open doors,” and the Prime Minister’s Office informed wire service MTI that “the government has accepted Csepel’s and Ferencváros’s proposals for the World Athletics Championships and urged its ministers to fully implement those proposals.” Meanwhile, Karácsony praised the government for its willingness to accept the municipal assembly’s position but insisted that the government should confirm in writing its commitments made earlier to former mayor István Tarlós. He said the city was “skeptical about the future” but it would “give cooperation with the government a chance.” In addition, on Wednesday evening in ATV, he called attention to the need for all five conditions to be met. Commenting on the decision to support the championship, Karácsony emphasized that as a Budapest mayor, he must represent every citizen and not only those who voted for him.
Independent MP Ákos Hadházy, one of the initiators of a referendum on the stadium, criticized the assembly for trying to agree with the government. In his view, the new stadium would serve as yet another “symbol of Orbán’s deeply corrupt system.”
Meanwhile, a public survey conducted by left-leaning Závech Research found that at the moment, 53% of Budapesters would support the WC and 31% would oppose it. Interestingly, if the government fulfilled the Budapest leadership’s conditions, the rate of supporters would jump to 78% with both the ratio of pro-gov’t and opposition-leaning supporters increasing.
featured image: visual desing of the stadium; via MTI