Over the last month, Hungarian political group Momentum collected signatures as part of their NOlimpia campaign to force a referendum on whether Budapest will continue bidding to host the 2024 summer Olympics. The results of the petition drive are now in: 266,151 names, almost double the required number to force a referendum, according to NOlimpia's head of content and marketing Daniel Corsano.
Corsano and his group estimate that approximately 20 to 25 percent of the names will be invalid for various reasons due to the referendum process, but that will still leave them with more than enough valid signatures to force a vote.
"The IOC prescribes wide ranging support for bids to host the olympics, I think we have showed it that this does not exist in Budapest," Corsano wrote in an email to VICE Sports. "We expect them, and the government, to act accordingly."
Even if Budapest's officials don't formally withdraw their bid or the government finds some way around actually holding the referendum, the damage is already done. The signature drive comes with falling support for the Games in Hungary. A recent poll by the Republikon Institute found that 44 percent of Hungarians are against the bid, 25 percent are for, and the rest undecided. But the support is largely segmented by party: only those in support of the current government have a majority in favour of the bid. Meanwhile, the other two bidding cities, Los Angeles and Paris have majority support for their bids due to their reliance on existing sporting and urban infrastructure.
NOlimpia's campaign argued that the billions of dollars pledged in the bid for the Olympics ought to be used for things such as healthcare, education, rural infrastructure, housing, and to help combat poverty, particularly in areas outside Budapest. After they see that the government will not submit their bid, Corsano says the organisation will focus on spreading to other cities around Hungary, and to ensure that the money not spent on the Olympics goes to the needs they highlighted during the campaign.
In NOlimpia's Facebook post announcing the results, the group said: "We want to thank everyone who signed our petition, helped us collect signatures or supported us in any other way. We especially want to thank our more than 1800 activists, who went out into the cold for the sake of Hungarian democracy and gave hope to all of us."