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Supreme Court rejects Budapest 2024 referendum call

A proposal for a referendum on whether or not the Hungarian capital of Budapest should proceed with its bid to stage the 2024 summer Olympic and Paralympic Games has been rejected by the country’s Supreme Court.

The Kuria in Hungary dismissed the proposal on the grounds that a referendum would only be able to be staged after Budapest had submitted its bid, essentially making any vote needless. “The question suggests that voters may give their opinion about the submission of the bid, even though it will have been submitted by the time of the referendum,” the Kuria said in a statement.

The Kuria’s ruling is final and cannot be appealed. Pressure has been mounting on Budapest to stage a referendum before the deadline for submitting the final bid documentation on February 17. The city council last month rejected a proposal to stage a referendum by a majority vote of 16 to 14, with two abstentions.

Those against the bid cite financial concerns as their reasons for calling for a referendum. Budapest has planned a budget of HF one trillion (€3.2bn/$3.5bn), a figure many feel is too high and could eventually lead to cost overruns.

According to the Associated Press news agency, the Together opposition party claimed the supreme court “made an unacceptable political decision” which prevented citizens from voting on something that “significantly affects their lives”. Despite opposition, the Hungarian government has continuously backed the bid and it appears that, despite repeated calls for a referendum to be staged, Budapest will submit the bid as planned.

The Hungarian government last week appointed former President Pal Schmitt as the chairman of the group behind Budapest’s bid. The organisation, which has named itself the ‘Guardians of the Olympic Bid’, also includes chess grandmaster Julit Polgar, Mayor of Budapest Istvan Tarlos, and International Weightlifting president Tamas Ajan.

Budapest is one of four remaining cities bidding to host the 2024 Games. It faces competition from Los Angeles in the US, Paris in France and the Italian capital of Rome.

Hamburg had also been in the running but withdrew its bid in November after holding a referendum of its own. Of 650,000 votes, 51.6 per cent were against the German city’s bid to host the Games as opposed to 48.4 per cent in favour. The International Olympic Committee will reach its decision on the Games' host city in September 2017.