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  • OpEd: Budapest Demise Heaps More Agony on IOC


    02/24/17

    (ATR) Is anybody really surprised that Budapest has ended its bid for the 2024 Olympics?

    The demise of the Hungarian bid in the face of public opposition and lack of political will follows a troubling pattern of rejection of Olympic bids at the grass roots level.

    Five cities peeled off from the campaign for the 2022 Winter Olympics, leaving Beijing and Almaty as the last two bidders. For the 2024 race, Hamburg was first to go when a referendum failed. Then Rome dropped out in October when the mayor refused to back the bid. And now Budapest.

    Prime Minister Viktor Orban pulled the plug on Budapest, making moot petitions with a quarter of a million signatures calling for a referendum. Orban’s decision was somewhat self-serving. By avoiding an Olympics referendum, Orban will deny an opportunity for Momentum, a rival political party which was calling for the referendum, to make electoral advances. At the same time he saves some face for the IOC, which has become a punching bag in recent years when it is assailed by the public, sometimes with misinformed beliefs that the IOC has yet to dispel.

    Two months ago when IOC President Thomas Bach declared the current bidding process “produced too many losers”, he might be including the IOC with cities that have dropped out or lost in the voting. In fact, the IOC might be the biggest loser in the seeming unstoppable attrition of bid cities.
    Petitions calling for an Olympic referendum doom the Budapest bid. (Getty Images)

    Sure, two superstar cities -- Paris and Los Angeles -- remain in the race. Both seem to have excellent plans for the Games, with either city able to deliver a high quality event. But the way things have gone lately, the IOC can only hope the two cities are able to make it to the finish line at the 130th IOC Session in Lima, Peru, this September.

    The loss of Budapest to the 2024 race could accelerate talk about selecting Paris and London at the same time: one for 2024, one for 2028. As we have written previously, such a move would avoid a potentially agonizing search for a 2028 host in two years. Insiders both in the U.S. and France have suggested that IOC rejection of their bids, the third from each nation in the past decade, will be the last time they will bid for a while.

    That kind of threat may be enough to spur the IOC to find a way to make both cities happy. But John Coates, the IOC’s top legal expert, told Around the Rings this week that there are numerous hurdles facing such a last-minute change in rules by the IOC.

    The fiasco in Rio de Janeiro, now the latest hunting ground for Olympic white elephants, will only fuel public debate over the real worth hosting the Olympics brings to a city. The city’s western suburbs are now littered with venues of little use -- “a concrete wasteland” say visitors.
    ATR Editor Ed Hula

    PyeongChang, host of the 2018 Winter Olympics, has plans for just six of 12 venues built for the Games. That shortfall should be enough to trigger angst among the few bidders for the 2026 Winter Games who are expected to file later this year.

    The IOC faces challenges to the primacy of the Olympics in the world of sport. Options aplenty compete for the attention of sports fans these days. Doping threatens to undermine public credibility in the results. And unless a new direction is taken with the selection of Olympic host cities, the IOC could be left without any suitors from whom to choose.

    Written by Ed Hula.

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