Budapest withdraws Olympic bid, state channel reports

Parliament

Budapest is withdrawing its bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Budapest Mayor István Tarlós and Hungarian Olympic Committee (MOB) President Zsolt Borkai decided Wednesday evening, according to state-owned TV news channel M1.

According to M1, which is always well informed on government matters, the leaders decided to withdraw the capital’s bid rather than risk a “serious loss of prestige for the whole country.” Citing the decision, the channel said “Hungary cannot maintain a lengthy tender destined to fail, therefore the negotiating parties have decided that the only responsible decision can be if the capital withdraws the bid.” 

Although the decision itself is not a complete shock, the speed with which it was reached is indeed astonishing. Less than a week has passed since last Friday when fledgling political party Momentum Mozgalom submitted more than 266,000 signatures, almost twice as many as it needed, to call a referendum in Budapest on the capital’s bid. Ever since, events have developed rapidly.

Soon after the signatures were submitted to the capital’s election office, anonymous sources from the ruling party Fidesz began to emerge, hinting that the country might withdraw its bid, speculation that seemed further supported by what appeared to be a brewing row between the mayor and government over the matter.

On Wednesday morning, during a lengthy public city hall meeting, the mayor said that in light of the apparent “lack of national unity” over the 2024 Summer Olympics bid, he would discuss its future with the Hungarian Olympic Committee (MOB) and the government in the afternoon.

“Viktor Orbán cowardly copped out and people will know this,” Momentum Mozgalom said in a public statement after the news broke. “The government, which lies that it is national, has just ignored the will of 266,000 electors and cowardly ran away,” the movement said in a strongly worded announcement.

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