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Opposition Parties Back Referendum Initiative Aimed To Thwart Budapest 2024 Olympic Bid

Tamás Székely 2017.01.20.

Both the opposition Socialist and LMP parties back an NGO initiative to collect signatures demanding Hungary drop its bid to host the Olympic Games in Budapest in 2024. The Momentum Movement civil organisation wants voters to be asked in a local referendum: “Do you agree that the municipality of Budapest should withdraw its bid to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games?”

Socialist leader Gyula Molnár told a press conference on Thursday that Hungary was not ready to host the event. “There are more questions than answers” concerning the Olympic bid, he said. The Socialists will launch their own campaign and they want a national plebiscite on the subject. “The government should allow arguments for as well as those against to be presented,” Molnár said. Csaba Horváth, the Socialist Party’s representative in the Budapest council, said that the Olympics would cost every family 2 million forints (EUR 6,500), which “the government will collect in taxes”. Voters should be informed about “both sides” of the argument in order to make a responsible decision, he said.

LMP’s municipal representative Antal Csárdi said his party would set up stands at over 20 locations in Budapest to collect signatures in support of the initiative to drop the bid. Hosting the Olympics will cost an estimated 3,000 billion forints (EUR 9.7bn) for which 40 large hospitals could be built. Alternatively, new metro lines could be built, he said. “A city where the renovation of a metro line and the regular operation of hospitals are hindered by financial difficulties must not host the Olympics,” Csárdi said. Securing a decent standard of living for a generation could be compromised for “two weeks of pride”, he warned. “Let’s organise a decent weekday first, then we can consider the Olympics,” he said, adding that health, education, and housing were more important priorities.

Radical nationalist party Jobbik has indicated that it favours a referendum on the issue, while the left-wing Dialogue party said in a statement today that it also supports the civil group’s signature collection campaign.

The ruling Fidesz party said in a statement that the opposition lacked credibility on the issue, given that the Socialists had joined other parties in voting in favour of organising the 2024 event in the municipal assembly. “It is questionable as to what the real stance of the opposition is,” the statement said. “Again, it appears the opposition is interested in Hungary’s non-fulfilment and it is incapable of uniting behind the nation.”

via hungarymatters.hu and MTI; photo: Noémi Bruzák – MTI