In the face of public disapproval revolving around Budapest’s bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games, Mayor Istvan Tarlos recently declared possible intentions to approach the Budapest Assembly, the organizing committee for Budapest 2024, with a proposal that could potentially withdraw the city’s bid for the 2024 Summer Games. Before approaching the Budapest Assembly, Tarlos wants to get the input of the government and the Hungarian Olympic Committee; however, the ultimate decision to withdraw or continue with the bid would be made by Budapest’s city authorities.
The statement by Tarlos follows the success of a petition launched by Hungarians that do not want Budapest to host the 2024 Games. The petition requests putting the bid up to public referendum, an action that would likely result in the city being forced to withdraw its proposal to host the Games. In all, the petition was signed by 266,151 people, far exceeding the minimum of 138,000 signatures required for action.
Andras Fekete-Gyor, chairman of the Momentum Movement, a political group opposed to hosting the 2024 Games, said that he and the others who signed the petition would rather see the money required to host the Olympics put towards “modern hospitals and well-equipped schools.” Fekete-Gyor also said that it would be “cowardly” if city officials tried to block the referendum or simply withdrew the bid without allowing the referendum to take place. Essentially, Fekete-Gyor and his counterparts in the Momentum Movement just want to have their voices heard, as he went on to say that “Not asking people’s opinions about organizing the Olympics in Hungary was a huge omission on their part.”
The head of the Hungarian Olympic Committee maintains that the decision to continue with or withdraw the bid rests with the Budapest Assembly. Committee member Zsolt Borkai said said that he believes the petition has already greatly weakened Budapest’s chances of getting the Olympics. Many who oppose the bid and who want to see it put to referendum fear that Hunary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban might block the referendum, as Orban has been a strong supporter of the bid and is an avid sports enthusiast.
Whether a referendum is held or not, the petition has probably weakened Budapest’s standing relative to Los Angeles and Paris, the other two finalists to host the 2024 Summer Games. France will elect a new Prime Minister in May, while the IOC will wait until September to announce its decision. Though the IOC tries to avoid criticizing the governments of sovereign nations, there is no doubt that the IOC’s decision might be influenced by whoever wins the high office in France.
After the United States’ election in November, then President-Elect Donald Trump and the mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, spoke about the bid for the games and other issues such as immigration and infrastructure. President Trump’s executive order to block immigrants from seven Middle Eastern countries from entering the United States has raised questions about how LA’s bid for the 2024 Games might be effected. Regarding the travel ban’s potential influence on that decision, President Trump said “Well, I don’t know, but we have to have, regardless, we have to have security in our country…. We have to know who’s coming into our country.”
After the executive order was ousted by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, President Trump spoke of another executive order he intends to issue regarding immigration. However, until such an action has been taken, it is impossible to predict what, if any, effect it might have on the IOC’s decision. While the IOC has not made a statement regarding the executive order out of respect for the sovereignty of the United States (see paragraph two for how the IOC has responded to political movements in sports in the past), the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) released the following:
“Like the United States, the Olympic Movement was founded based upon principles of diversity and inclusion, of opportunity and overcoming adversity…. As the steward of the Olympic Movement in the United States, we embrace those values. We also acknowledge the difficult task of providing for the safety and security of a nation. It is our sincere hope that the executive order as implemented will appropriately recognize the values on which our nation, as well as the Olympic Movement, were founded.”
President Trump said that IOC wanted him to endorse LA’s bid for the 2024 Games, and that when he gave LA his nod of approval the IOC was “very happy.” President Trump went on to say “I would love to see the Olympics go to Los Angeles. I think that it’ll be terrific. The United States committee’s members have asked me to speak up about it, and I have, and I think I’ve helped them, and let’s see what happens. But I’d be very happy and honored if they would choose Los Angeles, and we’d stand behind it.”
The 1984 Olympic Games held in LA were some of the most successful Games in history. Despite the Soviet Union’s protest of the Games–a response to the USA’s boycott of the 1980 Games in Moscow–the 1984 Games in LA were cost-effective, and all of the venues built for those Games are still in use today. Additionally, LA did not build an Olympic Village, and instead used dormitories on the campuses of some of the many colleges and universities located in the Los Angeles area.
LA has proven it can host the Olympics (twice), and at the time of this writing is probably the candidate city with the least opposition to hosting the 2024 Games. 266,151 Hungarian citizens in addition to President Trump would be happy to see LA get the 2024 Games. In any case, the IOC’s decision will be eagerly awaited by millions around the world.