Budapest 2024 may have found an answer to one of the Olympic Movement’s most intractable problems: how to deliver a worthwhile legacy for the bedrock Olympic sport of athletics without creating a white elephant.
In a briefing in Rio, bid leaders including chief operating officer László Vajda outlined a plan for an athletics stadium to be built in the proposed Olympic Park on the banks of the Danube which would slim down to a seating capacity of 15,000 in legacy mode.
This should permit the venue a viable future as a stage for its intended sport - in which Hungary has a strong tradition, particularly in throwing events - without casting around for, say, a professional football club to be the stadium’s principal long-term occupant, as has happened in London.
Mapping a long-term future for a stadium large enough to accommodate the crowds wishing to attend Olympic athletics sessions, and often ceremonies, has been one of the main legacy headaches confronting the Movement in recent times.
In a further sign of an inventive streak likely to be needed if the bid is to get the better of heavyweight rivals Los Angeles, Paris and Rome when International Olympic Committee (IOC) members next year select the host of the 2024 Summer Games, Budapest has devised a blueprint for the Olympic Village that may help to address one of Hungary’s biggest social problems: a ‘brain drain’ of talented young professionals.
According to Vajda and his colleagues, the state would retain control of part of the medium-rise development – which would again be close to the Danube and contain 17,000 beds in Games mode – with a view to using it as a carrot to encourage young, educated families to remain in Hungary rather than moving away.
According to Budapest 2024:
“The Village will deliver a regenerated, mixed-use legacy development with residential, community and retail facilities adjacent to the redeveloped waterfront park.
“It will also assist in meeting the strong need for new residential housing stock in Budapest.
“The Olympic and Paralympic project will be fully financed by the National Government.
“A portion of the development will be sold to private owners, leading up to and following the Games, under a staged release plan.
“Currently the idea is to use the Olympic Village for different purposes after the Games: some part would be used as a university campus; other apartments would be given at very reasonable prices to public servants, people employed by the state; others would be allocated, again at a very reasonable price, to families with children.”
Hungary has been in the European Union since 2004, and part of the rationale for this proposed legacy would be to “try to put a brake on young families moving to the west”.
Bid leaders told insidethegames that Budapest 2024 was proposing “multiple, small clusters” of venues, since it would be “easier and less risky to manage” such configurations.
They said that with proposals to stage a number of events – including canoeing and some handball and basketball matches – around what is a relatively small country, “nine out of 10 Hungarians will be less than 90 minutes from their closest Olympic venue”.
With the Rio 2016 Olympics now over, attention in the Movement is set to focus increasingly on the 2024 bidding race, which is being conducted under revised IOC rules, in the months ahead.
The winner will be announced in September 2017 at the IOC Session in Lima.