BUDAPEST: Budapest’s bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games faces a new referendum challenge after a youth group critical of Prime Minister Viktor Orban said they will begin collecting signatures this week.
The Hungarian capital is vying with Los Angeles and Paris to host the Games. A decision is due in September.
Momentum, set up in 2015 comprising Hungarians mostly in their 20s and 30s, launched the “NOlimpia” referendum drive on Monday and need 138,000 signatures to force a vote.
The bid, backed by sports-mad Orban and approved by city hall as well as parliament, envisages a low-cost Games in line with the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s Agenda 2020 reforms.
Opponents, fearing spiraling costs and corruption, have tried several times to force a referendum but have been blocked by city hall or the supreme court.
Momentum’s leader Andras Fekete-Gyor said that some 300 volunteers have signed up to begin collecting signatures Thursday within a 30-day deadline.
“Blocking the Budapest bid is of national importance,” local media quoted Fekete-Gyor as telling a news conference on Monday.
“The movement’s members like sport, we like watching the Olympics, but this bid shows up all the sicknesses of the system,” he said.
He said the money would be better spent on education, health and public transport.
A press officer for the Budapest bid team declined to comment Tuesday to AFP on the referendum drive.
Widely seen as an outside bidder, Budapest has never hosted an Olympics although the central European country is one of the top 10 nations in the Olympics’ overall medals table.
Fekete-Gyor also said that Momentum also opposes other policies by Orban, who has long been accused of undermining democratic checks and balances, and may stand in elections due in 2018.