One of two cities competing against Los Angeles for the right to host the 2024 Summer Olympics could be on the brink of withdrawing.
Budapest 2024 is facing a stern challenge from a Hungarian political group that on Friday claimed to have garnered more than enough public support to force a referendum on the issue.
Momentum Mozgalom posted videos on Facebook of members carrying bundles of petitions for submission to election officials. The group said it has collected approximately 266,000 signatures.
With about 140,000 required to trigger a general vote, Budapest Mayor Istvan Tarlos told reporters he would “seriously consider” whether the city’s bid campaign should be discontinued.
Budapest 2024 leaders had no comment, according to a spokesman.
Friday’s developments represented more bad news for the International Olympic Committee, which in recent years has watched numerous potential hosts scared away by the high cost of staging the mega-sporting event.
The 2024 bidding cycle has already seen Boston, Hamburg and Rome withdraw.
With the field ultimately narrowing to three, Budapest has been considered an underdog to L.A. and Paris.
The capital city placed its hopes on a proposal that emphasized simplicity, community spirit and Old World charms.
But as grass-roots opposition grew stronger, Budapest 2024 recently announced it would delay beginning the final phase of the competition in which candidates have multiple opportunities for direct contact with IOC members.
Now it could take more than a month for government officials to verify the signatures Momentum Mozgalom has gathered. By that time, the IOC would be preparing to send evaluation teams to each city.
A vote to decide the 2024 host is scheduled for September.
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