(ATR) Viktor Orban says Hungary is ready to "seize the opportunity" to bring the 2024 Olympics to Budapest.
He said the IOC’s Agenda 2020 reforms "have opened up the possibility for countries and cities that stood minimum chance [of securing the Olympics] against the big metropolises".
Orban suggested the new Olympic roadmap had "done away with the practice that hosting the Olympic Games is no longer the privilege of the world’s 20 biggest cities".
Speaking at the Hungarian Olympic Committee’s general assembly marking the NOC’s 120th anniversary in Budapest Tuesday, Orban spoke passionately about his country’s sporting successes and the bidding contest ahead. Hungary is one of the founding nation’s of the Olympic Movement with 167 gold medals ranking it number eight in the global rankings of Olympic countries.
In the wake of Hamburg’s exit from the 2024 contest following a ‘No’ vote in last month’s referendum, Orban insisted that behind Budapest’s Olympic mission "stands a wide public unity".
"This is a plan that was approved by 80 percent of the Hungarian parliament, 90 percent of the municipal council and 100 percent of the Hungarian Olympic Committee."
"We can safely call it a pan-national issue. The Hungarian government provides full assistance to the Hungarian Olympic Committee," he said. "It will never become an arena of political competition and struggle. The necessary financial resources of the candidature are provided for."
Speaking exclusively to Around the Rings, Orban expressed confidence in the Olympic project earlier in the day. He referred to the wide-ranging support for the bid at all levels of local government: "If there's an issue supported so hugely [by city], it's obv government is behind it."
Zsolt Borkai, president of the Hungarian NOC, also pointed to the IOC’s reforms as an encouragement for Budapest and mid-sized cities to bid for and stage "economically sound Olympics".
"It gives us a historic chance. We can only be successful if the public consensus is behind the project and if there is good return on investment," he told the assembly. "I am convinced our economic experts have done very thorough work and the recent poll shows a strong majority who support the Budapest Olympics."
IOC president Thomas Bach, European Olympic Committees chief Pat Hickey, IOC member Pal Schmitt and a host of Hungarian Olympians and Paralympians attended the general assembly at the Corinthia Hotel in the capital.
Bach stressed the importance of close cooperation between government, led by former footballer Orban, and the Hungarian HOC, which is led by two Olympic champions in Borkai and Pal Schmitt.
He said Hungary has a "solid foundation for the Olympic bid", praising Budapest for embracing IOC reforms to create a vision for how the Olympics could fit in to the country’s long-term plans for sustainable development.
At a press conference wrapping up 120th anniversary celebrations, Bach described the Budapest 2024 bid as a "very strong one in a very strong competition".
"We will see how they are getting out of the blocks and then the tough race can start," he said of the first phase ending with the submission of questionnaires to the IOC by its Feb. 16 deadline.
Los Angeles, Paris and Rome are the other 2024 contenders.
Asked by Around the Rings if the IOC could have done anything more to help Hamburg’s ill-fated bid, Bach said growing public support was "not for the IOC. This has to grow in the candidate cities, this is what candidate cities have to take care of.
"It’s not for IOC to give lessons in this respect or to address national feelings," he said.
"This was obvious in the Hamburg decision… to do with very particular reasons in Hamburg and Germany," Bach added, noting the four reasons previously cited for the port city’s embarrassing departure from the bid race: financial uncertainties; refugee crisis; impact of the FIFA and German World Cup scandal; and the Paris attacks.
Bach and his IOC delegation left Budapest at lunchtime for a flight to Kiev where they are participating in Ukraine NOC’s 25th anniversary celebrations.
Written by Mark Bisson
20 Years at #1: Your best source of news about the Olympics is AroundTheRings.com, for subscribersonly.