LA and Paris will battle it out to host the summer sporting extravaganza after internal political pressure sees the Hungarian bid collapse

The Hungarian Government has decided to formally withdraw Budapest from the bidding process to host the 2024 summer Olympics, leaving Los Angeles and Paris to compete for the event.

Over 250,000 signatures were collected by political opponents of the Hungarian bid, demanding a referendum be held within the country to illustrate public opinion of the campaign.

In light of the opposition, Budapest Mayor Istvan Tarlos met with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the Hungarian Olympic Committee. Following the meeting, a government statement suggested the city would pull out of the running to hold the 30th summer Olympics.

“The Olympic Games are an issue of national importance. It has long been recognised that to promote issues of national importance there is a need for consensus”, a government statement read.

“This consensus existed between the country’s leadership and political parties when the bid was submitted”, it continued.

“In recent months the unity has been dismantled and the Olympics has become a party political issue.”

“The opposition parties that have backed out of their previous commitment must be held responsible for this.”

Momentum, an opposition political group of mostly young professionals and students, had collected the petition signatures which had called on the government to canvass opinion on hosting the games by way of a referendum.

Opinion polls showed that over half of Hungarians wanted the bid to be withdrawn, with 56 per cent of Budapest residents opposing hosting the games.

Opposition to Orban’s government suggested the money spent hosting the games would be better invested in social services. That criticism comes despite the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) reform programme, Agenda 2020, which was designed to make the games more affordable.

Only last month Budapest city council had given formal backing to the bid to host the event, with 21 of 29 councillors voting in favour.

“It is now inconceivable that the city could mount a successful Olympic bid” – Hungarian govt. statement

But now Budapest Mayor Tarlos, who had only given his full support to the bid after the Agenda 2020 reforms were passed by the IOC, looks to have given up on the bid and called for a swift resolution to the formal process.

“I never insisted on the Olympics” Tarlos claimed. “There is no point in dragging out the process.”

A statement confirmed the government’s intention to withdraw Budapest’s bid. “It is now inconceivable that the city [Budapest] could mount a successful Olympic bid.”

“The only responsible decision is for Budapest and the Hungarian Olympic Committee to withdraw their bid.”

The IOC will now await the official declaration of the Hungarian Olympic Committee before confirming that Budapest’s bid has been withdrawn, although that confirmation now appears inevitable.

Although always considered an outsider, Budapest’s withdrawal is a further blow to the IOC with Hamburg, Rome and Boston having already pulled out from the bidding process amidst cost concerns.

Los Angeles and Paris are now the only two remaining candidates to host the 2024 event. The IOC will announce its decision in September.

Alistair Sargent, Correspondent (Sport)

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