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Olympics in Budapest? Mayoral Candidates Take Stances

Ábrahám Vass 2019.10.02.

Ahead of the upcoming municipal elections, economic investigative site G7 and liberal weekly HVG asked the three mayoral candidates of Budapest (minus reality celeb Krisztián Berki who is also “in the running” for the seat) about their positions on a future Olympics held in Hungary, as most are convinced that ruling Fidesz just put the project on hold after cancelling the bid in 2017.

Joint opposition candidate Gergely Karácsony said he would be proud if Budapest was able to host the Olympics once sometime. At the moment, however, the city is neither capable nor is it in the locals’ interest, who face more urgent problems, such as the debt of the city, public cleanliness, or the effects of climate change. He also highlighted corruption risks that won’t go away while “this government and its Budapest servants are in power.”

He added that in his view, the real scandal is, that despite the withdrawal, the government is quietly implementing a “STEALthy Olympics” program worth thousands of billions, that enriches only the pro-Fidesz oligarchs, but do not serve the people of Budapest.

Despite Failed Olympic Bid, Flashy Sports Infrastructure Developments to Come

Independent Róbert Puzsér is still fiercely against it, arguing that he believes in grassroots group sports and not professional ones, and insisting that large stadiums are pointless.

He claims he has two basic reasons: on the one hand, it would have unforeseeable funding needs and, on the other, the risk of organization would be too high because “public investments in Hungary are today carried out by the same oligarchs who overprice everything.” In addition, he claims that a well-functioning rule of law and public sector would be pre-requisites, however as of now, “Hungary is very far from both.”

He also fears growing social tensions, as the Olympics would need better urban transport and housing. While his program dubbed ‘Walking Budapest’ could solve the first issue, the second one is much more complex, especially because of the ongoing housing crisis.

Both outlets have, of course, also asked Fidesz-backed István Tarlós, who did not give a response. Even though the official page of the sports developments opens with his greeting, he does not seem to be such a supporter of the global sports event to prioritize over other important issues.

Local Elections: Who Will Win Budapest’s Mayoral Seat?

As G7 showed, the government, accordingly the government commissioner for major Budapest developments Balázs Fürjes’ statement, made after the cancel of the bid, insisted that most developments would go through anyway. He is indeed carrying out most of the contested sports infrastructure developments, speculating that this way, a future bid would be easier to sell.

Hosting an Olympics has been a long-time aim of PM Viktor Orbán, and since the costs of the needed infrastructure are paid from state funds, he is the most likely to make the decision – but an opposing mayor could encumber the bid to win.