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article imageBudapest Olympics firm suspends operations amid bid turmoil

By AFP     Feb 18, 2017 in Sports

The firm in charge of Budapest's troubled bid to host the Olympic Games in 2024 said Saturday it is suspending operations as long as uncertainty sparked by a referendum drive surrounds the application.

A day after a civil organisation said it had collected enough signatures to trigger a referendum on the bid, the Budapest 2024 Nonprofit Zrt. firm said it was putting all its contracts on hold.

"As long as it is unclear whether unified support for the Budapest Olympics can be restored, (the firm) is suspending the contracts it has signed, will not place new orders, and will not draw down funds allocated to the bid," said a statement sent by the firm to the Hungarian news agency MTI.

"Without unified backing from politics and society at large Budapest has no chance of winning," it said.

Up against Paris and Los Angeles, the Hungarian capital had been the outsider in the race to host the 2024 Games, but the referendum effort has landed a possibly fatal blow to its prospects.

Over a quarter million signatures of Budapesters were collected within a month by the Momentum Movement, a group of mostly young activists, aided by several political parties critical of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, one of the bid's main backers.

Some 266,000 signatures were gathered, the group said, almost double the threshold required to hold a ballot.

Momentum Movement leaders argued that a referendum should determine if people wanted taxpayer money to be spent, for example, on hospitals and schools rather than on hosting the Olympics.

The authorities have 45 days from Friday to verify the signatures and give the green light to the mayor to declare a referendum date.

Budapest's mayor Istvan Tarlos said Friday however he could swiftly bring a motion to the City Council to withdraw the bid rather than hold a referendum.

A decision on next steps was likely Wednesday or Thursday, Tarlos told reporters later after talks with Orban.

Earlier, Hamburg -- following a referendum -- and Rome also dropped out of the Olympics 2024 hosting contest, both citing financial concerns.

The International Olympic Committee is set to decide between the candidate cities on September 13 in the Peruvian capital Lima.

More about Hungary, oly, 2024, HUN, Referendum
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