Hungary’s government announced on Wednesday it would withdraw Budapest’s bid to host the 2024 summer Olympics, citing a lack of political and national unity behind the application, and blamed it on its opposition.
Bidding alongside Los Angeles and Paris, Budapest had been considered a long-shot candidate, pinning its hopes on the International Olympic Committee’s Agenda 2020 initiative.
“For Budapest and Hungary the Olympics is a national issue,” the government said in a resolution published on the national news agency MTI. “In recent months the earlier unity has broken down and the issue of the Olympics has turned from a national issue into a party issue. Opposition parties are responsible for this, those who backtracked on their earlier decision [to back the bid].”
According to a survey published on Wednesday by pollster Median, half of the voters wanted Budapest to withdraw its bid, with only a third supporting it nationally. In Budapest, 56% of voters were against the bid.
For Budapest and Hungary the Olympics is a national issue”
Sentiment changed as a group of young professionals and students collected more than a quarter of a million signatures in a month to press for a referendum on the Olympic bid. Their Momentum movement has burst on to Hungary’s political scene to challenge Orban’s government and opposition parties a year before elections in 2018.
No opposition group has had such an impact on a major issue since Orban rose to power in 2010. In targeting the Olympics, Momentum has challenged an event seen as being of symbolic importance to the prime minister.
Momentum spokesman Gergo Papp told local website Index.hu that the government had backtracked on the bid “in a cowardly manner”, saying they had taken away a chance for the people to vote on the project.
Read more: The Guardian.