A future Olympic Games to potentially be held in Budapest is apparently back on the agenda in Hungary. The Hungarian Olympic Committee (MOB) recently set up a panel to explore the possibility of Budapest (and Hungary) hosting the 2032 Games. The Prime Minister has again voiced his desire for the opportunity; meanwhile, political debates have arisen as well.
At its January 27 meeting, MOB set up an eight-member committee, consisting exclusively of key Hungarian businessmen, in order to explore the possibility of Budapest’s bid. MOB president Krisztián Kulcsár argued that at this point this is a must-do step from an organization that not only undertakes, but also targets a domestic Olympics in its very working principles. He also said that organizers are usually appointed seven years before the kick-off; consequently, applications would have to be handed in soon, hence the timing.
Talks about handing in the application can then proceed if the committee establishes that Budapest has the proper infrastructure and outlook for a successful organization of such a large-scale event, MOB explained.
Kulcsár said in a recent interview that “…a Budapest Olympics should be a unifying project for the nation and not one that widens (the) gaps…”
FactWhile the organization of Olympics faces hardships these days as the number of applicants decreases and many step back from the organization due to inner opposition or failed referendums, 2032 seems different in this matter, as potential bidders include the Netherlands, a joint Unified Korean bid, a joint bid from Chengdu and Chongqing (China), Istanbul (Turkey), Bombay (India), Jakarta (Indonesia), Doha (Qatar), Madrid (Spain), Rhein-Ruhr area (Germany), Queensland (Australia), and Ukraine.
Orbán: “Each match lasts until we win”
Moreover, prior to MOB’s announcement, Orbán once again made it clear that he hasn’t given up on his desire for a future Olympics put on by Hungary. In his end-of-the-year interview with pro-government sports daily Nemzeti Sport, he said that “I’d like to live to see Hungary hosting the Olympics — which we could have achieved by 2032 had it not been for the domestic coup.” Orbán also mysteriously added that “With us, each match lasts until we win.”
A divisive issue
Although Budapest was in for an Olympics bid at least four times in the early 20th century, it was in 2001 when the idea of a potential Budapest Olympics was first brought up after the regime change, namely by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. But after he lost the elections in 2002 and again in 2006, the idea was taken off the table for a while.
Although MOB wants to keep from turning the question into a political one, the Budapest Olympics is definitely divisive and has already become a matter of heated political debates too, after not holding any consultations, the government began to prepare a bid starting around 2014 and began to spend public money accordingly. This is actually how the Momentum Movement burst into the public light as before finalizing the bid, the then unknown organization, now one of Hungary’s main opposition parties, took in a signature-drive targeting a referendum on the application in 2017.
Those opposing the Olympics be brought to Hungary pointed to the huge and ever-increasing costs, the lack of funds, doubtful returns, the Orbán government’s often-criticized favoritism of ally businessmen, corruption dangers, and the questionable utilization of venues once the games are over.
Anyhow, after it managed to collect almost 300,000 signatures, the government eventually backed off and announced they would cancel Hungary’s application. As a matter of fact, this was Momentum’s very first step in politics and many government politicians still often refer to the centrist-liberal party as “dream-killers.”
Hungary has won the most Olympic medals for any nation to have never hosted the world’s biggest sports event, gamesbids.com notes
Despite stepping back from the application in 2017, the government insisted that most sports and infrastructure developments planned and needed for the Games, would still be realized.
Budapest investments for a future Olympics?
Hosting the Olympics is a nation-wide issue, it has, however, a particular segment in terms of the capital as well, especially after it has been taken over by the opposition. While during the aforementioned 2014 bid, Budapest was led by a Fidesz-majority, this changed in 2019 and one of the new leadership’s goals was to halt what they dubbed as the government’s “STEALthy Olympics project,” referring to high-scale investments such as the Athletics Stadium, by which the government quietly and unofficially prepares another bid.
This aspect has been given a new impetus as well now, especially in the light of the government’s tight-fistedness with other Budapest investments. Although State Secretary for Budapest developments Balázs Fürjes recently denied it, Budapest mayor Gergely Karácsony once again accused the government that it was still implementing it, specifically mentioning the Athletics center and the handball arena (both now being built), a rowing track on the Danube’s Ráckeve branch, a new city center investment called the ‘South Gate’ project, and the construction of the Galvani Bridge (instead of one which Budapest would have preferred further south, called the Albertfalva bridge).
on the featured image: PM Orbán with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach in Lausanne in 2019 (illustration); via MTI/PM’s Press Office/Zoltán Fischer