A 50-meter-long underground tunnel for vehicles will soon be added to Budapest’s pricey Puskás Football Aréna, for “protected persons.” It was the National Security Committee’s president, Jobbik MP János Stummer who broke the news after it appeared the government tried to keep the new project secret.
It was on Tuesday afternoon when Stummer came out publicly with the information, claiming that a private tunnel would be built exclusively for Prime Minister Viktor Orbán himself for HUF 2 billion (EUR 5.6 million). Right-wing opposition Jobbik’s MP revealed that he decided to do so after government politicians tried to classify the project through the Committee he heads, and which he opposed.
Soon after Stummer’s announcement, Puskás Aréna labeled the information a “hoax” but admitted that there was indeed a 50-meter-long vehicle underpass investment in the works to be used by protected persons, privileged guests, and performers. And its construction needs to be classified to “avoid national security risks” during construction. The stadium, under the supervision of state secretary Balázs Fürjes, also stated that the condition of granting permission to the stadium was under review as to whether or not the public’s traffic is greatly hindered when protected persons arrive or depart.
The old national stadium (a.k.a. Népstadion or People’s Stadium) had a similar tunnel too, called the Rákosi-tunnel, named after Hungary’s Stalinist dictator Mátyás Rákosi, who used it to reach his private box. However, that secret underpass was blown up during the construction of the new arena. On the other hand, as pro-government daily Magyar Nemzet points out
, it is quite common that stadiums have VIP underground passages. According to Magyar Nemzet’s
information, after the opening game in 2019, one of the VIP guests voiced his surprise that they did not have an exclusive, protected way to their boxes, so police had to cordon off some public areas, making fans wait. The pro-government outlet insinuates that this could have led to the decision to build the extra tunnel not long after the inauguration of the stadium.
The case and its result will, however, certainly stay on the agenda and will generate waves in Hungarian politics for a while. Stummer himself said that after the publication he was prepared to be replaced or even go to jail for the leaks. He, however, insisted that he didn’t consider the leaked plan to be classified since the tens of billions put into the building has been financed by the taxpayers and “…in the midst of the ongoing crisis, it’s not the time to make any changes at all.” Later, he also noted that he expects to be dismissed soon from the Committee’s leadership, but added that in case of further attacks he still has some high cards in his hands.
Jobbik president Péter Jakab has confirmed to stand by Stummer, who in his view “did the only right thing to reveal the plan by which Fidesz moved further up.”
In latest news, the Minister of Interior will receive Stummer on Thursday, after Sándor Pintér himself contacted the Jobbik lawmaker. According to Stummer, “… in this situation it is only transparency and publicity that can protect me from the government’s revenge and slander.”
Although it is difficult not to admire its beauty and grandiosity, Puskás Aréna, or rather its pricing and planning process (similar to other stadium projects of the Fidesz-led government), have become a controversial topic in politics and this is also one of the reasons why this additional cost has generated uproar amid the pandemic. The ‘New Puskás’ was originally planned for multiple purposes, such as hosting the Athletic races, for example. But while eventually its functionability was reduced, its price sky-rocketed over time and now stands at HUF 190 billion (equal to EUR 529.2 million at today’s rate), making it one of the most expensive stadiums of this kind in the world.
featured image illustration via Puskás Aréna’s Facebook page