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Rome, Budapest won’t hold 2024 Olympic bid referendums

Olympic flag

Feb 13, 2002; Salt Lake, Utah: A general feature of an Olympic Flag at the XIX Winter Olympics. Mandatory Credit: Witters Sport via US PRESSWIRE


Budapest’s city council has rejected a proposal by members of the opposition parties to hold a referendum on the Hungarian capital’s bid for the 2024 Olympic Games.

Budapest Mayor Istvan Tarlos rebuffed the notion as “political demagoguery” and said Wednesday it was unclear whether Budapest residents had adequate information about the Olympics two years before the host city is chosen.

While Prime Minister Viktor Orban‘s government has thrown its full support behind the bid, critics have cited the likelihood of cost overruns and the stress to be put on the city’s infrastructure as reasons for concern.

According to Nezopont Intezet, a pro-government research institute, support among Hungarians for hosting the Olympics has risen from 40 percent in August 2014 to 53 percent now.

While Hamburg’s bid for the 2024 Olympics was rejected by German voters, leaders of Rome’s bid are sticking to their plans of avoiding a referendum.

“The citizens in Rome are very particular,” bid ambassador Fiona May said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press. “Italians are very passionate. I don’t think you need to do a referendum. You feel it.”

Rome’s bid is centered around the Foro Italico complex that hosted the 1960 Games. The existing Stadio Olimpico would host track and field events and the opening and closing ceremonies, while swimming would be held at an adjacent aquatics complex.

“They’re there,” May said. “That’s a big expense that has been avoided. ... It’s just a natural thing for us.”

Hamburg’s bid was scrapped after 51.6 percent of residents voted against the project in Sunday’s referendum, with 48.4 percent in favor.

“I’m not surprised,” Rome bid chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo said. “The only thing that surprised me was that they made Hamburg the candidate and not Berlin.”

Rome pulled out of bidding for the 2020 Games after the Italian government declined to provide financial support. The current government backs the 2024 bid, which calls for a games operating budget of 6 billion euros ($6.3 billion).

“We don’t have any obligation or judicial instrument to form a referendum like the one in Germany,” Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago said. “But I’ve always supported that starting in February, once we outline the bid dossier, that over the ensuing year there will be chances to discuss it and survey the city. And there’s nothing to worry about that.”

With Hamburg out of the race, four cities remain in the running for the 2024 Games. Rome is competing against Paris, Los Angeles and Budapest, Hungary. The IOC will select the host city in September 2017.

Also Tuesday, Rome’s bid team unveiled a board of five trustees composed of leading members of the Italian legal world to ensure transparency amid a wide-scale corruption scandal in the capital.

Born to Jamaican parents, the British-born May won two Olympic silver medals in long jump for Italy in 1996 and 2000 after marrying an Italian. Her background has made her a symbol for a new generation of Italian immigrants and their children.

“Italy is changing and I was part of that change years ago,” she said.

MORE: Rome bid plan includes Colosseum, Circus Maximus