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Anti-Olympics campaign draws early support, attacks

More than 10,000 signatures were collected on the first day of a campaign by Hungarian youth organization Momentum Mozgalom against Hungaryʼs bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. Meanwhile, a mock political party gathered HUF 1 million for billboards promoting the signature collection, while government-friendly media attacked the campaign.

Momentum Mozgalom, an organization opposing the idea of Budapest hosting the 2024 Summer Olympics, started collecting signatures for a capital-based referendum yesterday in the framework of their NOlimpia campaign. On the first day alone, activists collected more than 10,000 signatures of the required 138,000, and they still have 29 more days to go in the campaign. 

Founders of the movement are optimistic about their progress, which may even be supported by Cabinet Chief János Lázár’s announcement yesterday hinting that the Hungarian government is considering holding a referendum on the issue anyway, according to reports. Lázár’s words caused considerable surprise, as the Hungarian government has previously pulled every string to make sure a countrywide referendum will not happen.

Meanwhile, the mock political Two-tailed Dog Party (Kétfarkú Kutyapárt) has collected more than HUF 1 million through donations for a billboard campaign promoting the signature collection. This is not the first time the mock party has collected donations for a billboard campaign. In response to two separate government campaigns, firstly to whip up feelings against migrants in 2015 and later to promote the — eventually failed — referendum on EU refugee quotas last October, the party was able to collect millions of forints to post its own billboards that parodied the government’s campaigns.

The stakes seem to be high, as the Hungarian government is apparently concerned about the NOlimpia campaign. Government-friendly daily Magyar Idők, which is considered by many as the mouthpiece of the current Fidesz-led government, today ran a story entitled “Fake civilians are trying to make the Olympics fail,” in which the paper claims Momentum Mozgalom is being controlled by opposition politicians.

Following Lázár’s announcement and Magyar Idők’s report, Momentum Mozgalom issued an announcement saying that “apparently the governing party feels a real danger [in connection with the campaign] and that is why its media runs fake news.” The organization said it considers the Magyar Idők report a success, adding that it shows the current powers are afraid that “somebody is finally listening to the people, and instead of making their own richer, is dealing with the real problems in the country.”