BUDAPEST (Reuters) - A successful Budapest bid for the hosting of the 2024 Olympic Games would be a victory for the entire Central and Eastern Europe region, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Tuesday.
Orban and International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach were attending a celebration of the 120th anniversary of the founding of the Hungarian Olympic Committee which was used by the hosts to highlight Budapest's bid.
The Hungarian capital is competing with Paris, Rome and Los Angeles for the Summer Games which will follow Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020.
"Selecting Budapest would not only be a new city and country for the Olympic Games, but put the region on the map. We want to organize the first Central Eastern Europe Olympics,” Orban said.
The 1980 Olympics in Moscow was the only time the Summer Games were held in Eastern Europe during the communist era and they have not returned to the region since the collapse of the dictatorships in 1989 and 1990.
Orban said Hungary and the region were ready to take on the challenge of hosting the world’s biggest sporting event.
“2024 will be 35 years after we shook off the shackles of oppression and celebrated our freedom,” said Orban.
“Organizing an Olympic Games would be the pinnacle of this historical process. We are not only competing for ourselves, but representing the whole region,” he said.
Orban said the IOC’s Agenda 2020 policy, which is intended to keep costs and investment levels down for Olympic events, had opened the door for a Budapest bid.
“Hosting the Olympics games is no longer the privilege of the world’s 20 biggest cities -- we are ready to seize the opportunity,” he said.
“The Olympics is a passion for Hungarians.”
Hungary has an impressive record in the Olympics having won 476 Summer Games medals, placing the country eighth in the all-time rankings and making it the best-performing nation never to have hosted the Games.
Several Hungarian gold medal winners are involved in the bid with former swimmer Agnes Kovacs, who won the 200 meters breaststroke in 2000, heading an Athletes Committee featuring boxer Istvan Kovacs, bantamweight gold medalist in 1996.
Bach said Budapest’s bid was a very strong one in a very strong competition.
“It will be a fascinating race,” he said.
“It has made it easier and less costly to bid and it opens the door to countries and cities like your’s,” Bach told the assembled representatives from Hungarian sport.
“We are very encouraged by your bid and we welcome Budapest to the competition,” Bach added.
Hungarian bid leader Balazs Furjes told reporters that the regional aspect of Budapest’s bid was being reflected in support from other former communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe.
“We have a natural network of the Central European Olympic committees. We really believe that, it is simple geography that if we have the Games in Budapest that obviously a great number of Central European spectators could participate," he said.
“We believe in the region. It is a region that has its unique features and has contributed a lot to the Olympic movement and it is time for the first Central European Olympic Games.”
Editing by Ed Osmond