Hungary Withdraws Bid To Host 2024 Olympic Games In Budapest
Tamás Székely 2017.02.23.
The Hungarian government has passed a resolution in which it proposes that the City of Budapest and the Hungarian Olympic Committee should withdraw Budapest’s bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, the Prime Minister’s cabinet office said.
The cabinet office told news agency MTI on Wednesday evening that hosting the Olympics was a “national cause which requires unity”. Authors of the statement insisted that the initial unity had vanished in recent months and the Games had “become a cause for party politics out of a national cause”, and put the blame on the opposition parties “going back on their earlier decision” to support the Olympic bid. Earlier in the evening, public news channel M1 reported that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Budapest Mayor István Tarlós and leaders of the Hungarian Olympic Committee had decided to withdraw the bid as they believed a rejection of the bid would mean a loss of international prestige for the country.
Meanwhile, Budapest Mayor István Tarlós told MTI after a meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and the head of the Hungarian Olympic Committee Zsolt Borkai that the city management, in agreement with the government, has proposed that the municipal assembly should withdraw the bid. Zsolt Borkai said “no other decision could have been made” on Budapest’s Olympic bid given that it had been made clear during Wednesday’s session of the municipal assembly that “consensus cannot be restored among the political parties”. He said the Hungarian Olympic Committee would continue to do everything it can to bring the Olympic Games to Hungary in the future.
Visual plans for Budapest 2024 (source: MTI)
Momentum, the new political movement that mounted an anti-Budapest 2024 campaign and collect signatures for a referendum, said the government has “betrayed” those who supported a local referendum to be held on Budapest’s plan to host the 2024 Olympic Games by proposing the bid’s withdrawal. “It is regrettable that the government… has betrayed 266,000 people by withdrawing the bid. What is more, it betrayed even the advocates of the Olympic plan,” it said. Momentum said the signature drive was also motivated by the goal that no decision should be made on a gigantic investment project that determines Hungary’s future for several decades without the public being asked in advance.
The government has “retired in a cowardly manner”, Socialist leader Gyula Molnár commented on the government’s Wednesday proposal that Budapest’s Olympic plans should be dropped. Ruling Fidesz shrinks from holding a referendum on the Olympic bid because it “dreads” being defeated, Molnár said. He noted that the government had earlier dropped a contested ban on Sunday shopping and threw out a decree which would have enabled “shady deals” around state-owned land, and insisted that “the opposition has defeated the government three times in a year by way of (initiating) a referendum”. The government may “manipulate” the electoral system and could “fill the Election Committee with yes-men” but it cannot prevent voters from expressing their opinion, Molnar said.
Green opposition LMP said that Hungary would benefit from the withdrawal of the Olympic bid. Local lawmaker Antal Csárdi added, however, that it was “unacceptable” that the ruling Fidesz party had “ignored the will of the people” and was “still not willing” to call a referendum on the bid. Csardi said that even if Budapest’s bid is withdrawn, the government would still have to account for the funds that had been spent on it. He said the government would have to take responsibility for “having wasted tens of billions” of forints on the bid.
Going on with Budapest’s Olympic plans would inevitably had led to failure, ruling Fidesz group leader Lajos Kosa said on Thursday, after the government proposed that the bid to host the 2024 Games should be withdrawn. Kosa argued that the local referendum supported by over 266,000 residents could not have been held before mid-July, but if “those playing for time” obstructed the procedure the referendum date could be postponed as late as October. Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee will select the bid winner in September, he added.
Kosa also said that if a referendum had been held last year, Budapest would have missed the submission date with its bid. He said that a referendum could have been held after the bid had been submitted but insisted that “there was full political consensus” on the Olympic plans at the time, which rendered a referendum unnecessary. “Hungary’s opposition, overturning a political consensus, have reduced the chances for the bid to win to a minimum,” Kósa said. Kósa said the government, the Fidesz party and Budapest’s leaders were in agreement that dropping the bid to “prevent a loss of international prestige” was the “only responsible option”.