The three-way race to host the 2024 Summer Olympics could shrink by one after a petition campaign in Budapest will put that city’s candidacy up for a vote.
As reported by Vice, a group called NOlimpia has collected enough signatures — 266,151 of them — over the past month to force the Olympic-hosting question onto a ballot referendum. And even if 20 to 25 percent of those signatures are invalidated, as NOlimpia expects they will be, there still will be plenty of wiggle room between the number of valid signatures and the 138,000 needed to get the measure onto the ballot.
A recent poll found 44 percent of Hungarians are against the Olympic bid, with only 25 percent supporting it and the rest undecided, Vice notes. NOlimpia says the money earmarked for the Olympics should instead be spent on things such as health care, education and rural infrastructure.
Budapest is the third city to drop out of the running for the 2024 Olympics after Rome and Hamburg, where 51.6 percent voted against a bid in a 2015 referendum. Left standing are Los Angeles and Paris, with both saying they will rely upon existing infrastructure instead of spending wildly on new construction.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has said that the Olympic bidding process needs to change after a number of prospective hosts balked at the cost, ending their own bids after losing support of their citizens.
“You can see how in many countries, you have populist movements and anti-establishment movements getting stronger and stronger, asking different and new questions,” he said in December.
NOlimpia spokesman Daniel Corsano said his movement is one such example.
“The IOC prescribes wide-ranging support for bids to host the Olympics, I think we have showed it that this does not exist in Budapest,” he wrote in email to Vice. “We expect them, and the government, to act accordingly.”
The IOC will announce the 2024 winner at a September meeting in Peru. According to reports, Bach and other Olympic officials are privately mulling a plan to hand out both the 2024 and the 2028 Games at that meeting, with Paris getting one of them and Los Angeles the other. This would at least temporarily fend off the further embarrassment that arises when cities drop out of the running, award future Olympics to two cities that for now would welcome the Games and give the IOC time to formulate a new bidding and hosting process, one that ideally lessens the financial impact on host cities.