Budapest mayor flags possible withdrawal of 2024 bid

Fri Feb 17, 2017 1:40pm EST
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By Krisztina Than

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Budapest could decide as soon as next week whether to withdraw its bid to hold the 2024 Olympic Games, the Hungarian capital's mayor said on Friday, in another blow to organizers' attempts to find a host city.

Hamburg, Rome and Boston have already abandoned their bids to host the Games, an event, whose costs have risen sharply over the past 20 years. If Budapest pulls out, that would leave only Paris and Los Angeles still in the race.

Prospects of a successful bid dimmed after a local political movement, Momentum, gathered enough signatures to force a referendum on the matter, which has grown increasingly unpopular among Hungarians according to a recent opinion poll.

Budapest Mayor Istvan Tarlos told a news conference that if a referendum was called, he would "seriously consider" a proposal to withdraw the bid.

If Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the Hungarian Olympic Committee supported a withdrawal, he would submit a motion to that effect to the city council on Wednesday, the local news website quoted Tarlos as saying.

Orban and Tarlos will meet to make a decision on Thursday at the latest, after government and the city assembly meetings to discuss the situation the previous day, the national news agency MTI said, quoting a joint statement from the mayor's office and Orban's media chief, Bertalan Havasi.

Momentum, launched by a group of students born around 1989 when the Communist regime collapsed, said it had collected more than 266,000 signatures on a petition against the bid within a month, which its leader said would be enough to trigger a vote.

"The past 30 days have been one of the most magnificent periods in the history of democracy in Budapest," Andras Fekete-Gyor told journalists after announcing the petition result.   Continued...

Andras Fekete-Gyor Leader of political movement Momentum holds up one of the boxes containing over 266,000 signatures of Budapest voters who want a referendum on Budapest's bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics in Budapest, Hungary, February 17, 2017. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh