Budapest rejects referendum on 2024 Olympic bid

BUDAPEST: Budapest's city council on Wednesday rejected a proposal for a referendum on its bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games, leaving the way clear for its candidacy to go ahead.

Budapest is one of four candidate cities, along with Los Angeles, Rome and Paris, still bidding to host the Olympics.

Hamburg withdrew its bid last week following a negative referendum result which shocked German Olympic officials.

The Budapest referendum was proposed by an opposition Socialist council member, Csaba Horvath, but was rejected by 16 votes to 14, with two abstentions.

Officials said the Hungarian capital's bid would go ahead.

Before the vote, Horvath had told journalists: "Based on the current proposal the Budapest Olympic Games cannot be supported because only those who foot the bill (meaning taxpayers) can decide about its fate."

Budapest Mayor Istvan Tarlos told the city council in a speech before the vote that he doubted that a referendum was the right way to decide on the bid.

"I absolutely respect referenda, and we will vote on the proposal," he said. "It is an open question, however, whether two years before the hosts are chosen voters have enough information about hosting the Olympic Games."

Budapest is led by Tarlos, an independent, but the ruling Fidesz party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban supports him and holds a comfortable majority in the city council.

Tarlos and Fidesz have expressed wholehearted support for the Olympic bid several times.

Budapest plans a Games budget of one trillion forints (£2.2 billion), of which 300 billion would be recouped by selling Olympic assets afterwards, according to an execution study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Another two trillion forints would need to be spent on infrastructure, PwC said, adding that more than half of the total investment would be necessary regardless of the Olympics.

The total compares to a $4.7-billion (£3.1 billion) budget for a Los Angeles Games and operating budgets of some six billion euros (£4.2 billion) each for Rome and Paris.

Budapest is the only one of the four remaining candidates never to have hosted the Games.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is due to pick the 2024 host in 2017.