Referendum campaign threatens Budapest’s Olympic bid

20 Feb 17

Hungary could be forced to withdraw its bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games in the capital Budapest after a petition to hold a referendum on the matter received more than double the signatures needed.


The NOlimpia campaign, organised by a new left-leaning political movement Momentum Mozgalom (Momentum Movement in English), collected over 266,000 signatures in 30 days supporting a referendum, well above the 138,000 needed to trigger a municipal plebiscite.

If Hungary’s bid was withdrawn, it would follow similar moves in Rome, Boston and Hamburg, three other municipalities that have pulled out of the running, and leave just Paris and Los Angeles still in the race.

Bids to host the games have dwindled to smaller numbers for a number of successive rounds, as cities count the cost of what has in the past been seen as a great, albeit expensive, honour.

NOlimpia argues that the cost of hosting the games, estimated by some to amount to over €10bn, would push Hungary into debt and could be better spent on stretched public services like health and education.

In a statement on its Facebook page, the campaign celebrated the result of their petition: “We made it! Thank you to everyone who signed the initiative, helped or supported us. Tens of thousands have become, over the last thirty days, part of a movement.”

Momentum Mozgalom, aimed at the country’s youth and political left, was formed in 2015 and plans to form a political party to take seats in the 2018 elections.

Its anti-establishment politics pits it directly against the right wing president Viktor Orbán, who backs the Olympic bid.

A recent poll, commissioned by the Budapest bid, found that 63% of people support the campaign to host the games, with support growing among young people. However, backing for the bid was not as strong in what would be the host city, where support was at 55%.

Budapest’s election committee will now verify the signatures before calling a referendum. It is possible the bid could be withdrawn before going to a vote, but the NOlimpia campaign said the people should be able to decide.

The International Olympics Committee will elect a host city in Lima, Peru on 13 September.

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