Hungary’s Momentum Mozgalom, a recently launched youth movement, has collected 266,151 signatures, almost double the threshold of 138,000 signatures needed to force a referendum in Budapest on Hungary’s bid to host the 2024 Olympic games, the youth movement announced on February 17.
Although it is yet unclear whether the government will choose to organise a referendum or withdraw the bid, the NOlimpia campaign has already caused a headache for Fidesz, as it directed public attention to important domestic problems such as the state of health care, education and increasing corruption.
Budapest officially announced its intention to bid to host the Olympics in 2015, currently head to head in a race with Los Angeles and Paris, having already outlasted Hamburg and Rome. The German and Italian cities withdrew their proposals due to local opposition against the cost of organising the games. Momentum argues that it was a mistake that the Fidesz government had failed to ask Hungarians’ opinion before submitting Budapest’s bid.
“We asked the people instead of them. Now it would be a coward move to simply withdraw the bid or block the referendum, as more than quarter of a million people stated that they want to have a referendum on the issue,” Andras Fekete-Gyor, president of Momentum said as he handed over the signatures collected in the past 30 days to the National Election Committee.
Last year, when the opposition got the go-ahead for a referendum against the government's Sunday shopping ban, Fidesz swiftly abolished the unpopular law, rather than lose face in public. Holding a referendum on the Olympic bid would be risky for Fidesz, as independent polls show that the majority of Hungarians are against holding the games, mainly due to the enormous costs.
Shortly before Momentum’s announcement, Budapest mayor Istvan Tarlos said that in case the necessary number of signatures is collected for a referendum, they will “have to think about withdrawing the bid”, 444.hu reported. Prime Minister Viktor Orban has not yet commented on the issue.