'This ship has sailed', Budapest 2024 bid chief tells radio

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 20, 2017 4:11 AM

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - The Hungarian capital has likely lost its chance to organize Summer Olympic Games in 2024, the bid's chief told local radio late on Sunday after a nascent political movement collected a quarter million signatures to force a referendum on the bid.

Budapest was considered a long-shot candidate next to powerhouses Los Angeles and Paris but the eastern European city pinned high hopes on the International Olympic Committee's new frugal bid concept, known as Agenda 2020.

A political accord behind the bid once included most parties, the government and Parliament, which voted to support the candidacy in 2015. That broad unity evaporated as the new political group, called Momentum, tapped into popular dissent.

Budapest Mayor Istvan Tarlos flagged he might withdraw from the 2024 race but rejected responsibility for allowing the bid to fall apart, saying it was always a national matter in Hungary.

Balazs Furjes, a government commissioner for special projects and the chief organizer of the 2024 bid, told Inforadio on Sunday that he saw no chance for a Hungarian Games in 2024.

"The Mayor is right, this issue belongs to all of us," he said. "The Hungarian Olympic family, the capital, Parliament, and the government have all made unified decisions. Now I see that cause ran aground, even though a 120-year-old Hungarian dream had a palpable chance of coming true."

He said Agenda 2020 and internal political unity were both necessary to allow any chance for a small, poorer country like Hungary to host the Games.

"Now that unity has gone up in the air, and lacking that we stand no chance against Paris or Los Angeles. This ship has sailed, it seems. The Budapest Olympics can soon wrap it in, although now it would have really had a chance."

He said even a favorable referendum result would not save the situation now.

"I would have been the first to propose a referendum had it not been for the complete unity that formed in the Budapest city council and a decisive majority in Parliament," he said. "With no unity the Budapest bid suffers such a blow that a referendum to heal that would be too little too late."

(Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)