Budapest city assembly backs 2024 bid with referendum looming
Photo: Tony Evans/Flickr
27.01.2017By Stine Alvad
A number of issues need attention and money before spending large amounts of public money on hosting an Olympics, says “Momentum Mozgalom”, a Hungarian youth organisation behind a campaign advocating for a referendum about whether to bid for the 2024 Olympics in Budapest.
The campaign named ‘NOlimpia’ has had the proposed referendum approved by both the Budapest Election Committee and the Supreme Court of Hungary provided they manage to gather a minimum of 138,000 signatures within 30 days.
Momentum Mozgalon has 140 active members and argues that the funds allocated to hosting the Games are better spent otherwise and lists five critical issues that should be addressed before spending public money on an Olympic Games.
“We need to fix healthcare, education, housing, transportation and living standards in our country first. Once we get there, and once hosting the Olympic Games won’t be a luxury, we will be first in line to support our bid,” says András Fekete-Győr from the NOlimipia campaign, according to gamesbids.com
The campaign for signatories began last week and has now reached more than 40,000, writes the Hungarian Free Press.
This Wednesday, the local authorities officially approved the third stage of the bidding phase when 24 of the 29 voting members in the Budapest City Assembly voted in favour of a continuous backing of the bid.
“This was a magnificent endorsement of our plans to host the 2024 Games in Budapest,” said Budapest bid leader, Balázs Furje in a press release.
Increased public support for the bid
Commenting on the anti-Games campaign, Budapest mayor, Istvan Tarlos, insisted on the benefits for Hungary in hosting the Games and said that “whoever loves Budapest supports the Olympics and doesn’t sign these forms”, writes gamesbid.com.
A poll conducted in December 2016 showed a 63% support for the Budapest bid. The poll was conducted by Kód Kft for Budapest 2024 Nonprofit Zrt., the Hungarian bid committee, and marks a 12% rise since the last poll done six months ago. The support tops among the young population between 18-29 years of age, reaching 71%, the poll says. Only about one-third of the 1000 respondents believe that hosting the Olympics will be too expensive for Hungary.
“We are delighted to learn that support for the Olympic Games in Budapest is continuing to grow as more cities and communities across Hungary are backing the bid,” said Budapest bid leader, Balázs Furjes according to a press release from the bid committee.
NOlimpia’s Fekete-Győr does not agree that the survey results provide a realistic picture of the mood among the Hungarian public.
“The bid committee is asking misleading questions: they refer to their own survey about how people would ‘take pride’ in hosting the Olympic Games,” he said to gamesbids.com. “Independent surveys, such as the one conducted by Publicus Institute show that three-quarters of the respondents believe that it would cost us too much; two-thirds of the people are also afraid of corruption.”
“Even among those 45% who support hosting the Olympic Games in Budapest in 2024, half of the supporters change their mind once they are made aware of the expenses.”
Reports in the past months have centrered around the rising costs of the bid campaign, which, according to the government critic news site Budapest Beacon, has already spent 7 billion HUF (25 million USD) on consulting, equaling half the bid’s budget for 2016 and 2017 combined, and a 40% increase from the initial budget for consulting fees.
Referenda have proved effective in anti-bid campaigns
The NOlimpia campaign is similar to the anti-olympic campaigns that were successfully run in Hamburg (NOlympia Hamburg) and Boston (No Boston Olympics). All three campaigns have had the involvement of Chris Dempsey, who led the Boston campaign.
“Referenda are often an effective tool for Olympic bid opponents. More often than not, voters in potential host cities vote down a bid,” Dempsey says to gamesbids.com about his involvement in the anti-bid campaigns.
“The IOC markets the process as a ‘race’ to be won, but actually it’s an auction — and often not one worth winning, or even entering, when residents have other priorities for their tax dollars.”
Budapest is competing for the hosting rights for the Olympic Summer Games in 2024 and the city is running against Los Angeles and Paris after Rome and Hamburg withdrew their bids. The IOC will elect the host city during their session in Lima, Peru on 13 September this year.