Hungarian Olympic Committee (MOB) President Zsolt Borkai has claimed the activities of the political movement against Budapest’s bid for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games have been "met with surprise" by International Olympic Committee (IOC) counterpart Thomas Bach.
The 51-year-old, an Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast on the pommel horse at Seoul 1988, claimed Bach believes "national success has been sacrificed for political gain".
Budapest 2024 chairman Balázs Furjes said yesterday that a final decision on whether the Hungarian capital will remain in the race with Los Angeles and Paris is still a few weeks away.
A day earlier, though, he had admitted that the city's efforts to stage the Games might be coming to an end after national youth organisation Momentum Mozgalom’s "NOlimpia" campaign gathered more than 250,000 signatures to trigger a referendum on it.
Momentum Mozgalom has officially submitted forms containing 266,151 signatures to the Budapest Election Committee seeking a referendum, considerably more than the 138,000 needed.
Borkai has criticised the organisation, whose actions, he says, were not expected by Bach.
"It is the wrong thing to do to withdraw in the bid’s final stage from the shared thinking that was characteristic of Hungarian political parties before the launch of the Momentum Movement," he said.
"Opposition politicians had voiced support for organising the Olympic Games, and, independently of party politics, formed a sportsmanlike team for this common cause.
"In terms of the Olympic and Paralympic bid, the theme was fair play and sports, which has brought Hungary’s political elite together after many years of conflict.
"For me, it is incomprehensible that the political opposition backed out from standing behind a national issue, and why, in a morally questionable manner, they are turning Hungarian sport’s unparalleled opportunity into an issue of party politics.
"The activities of the Momentum Movement were also met with surprise by IOC President Thomas Bach, who believes national success has been sacrificed for political gain.
"Nothing reveals this more than their plan to instantly form a political party as a result of their new-found high profile.
"What is sad is that they have used a national dream and a noble mission, the Olympics, as a tool, thereby also doing our two competitors, Paris and Los Angeles, an enormous favour.
"Through this act, they have in fact stood beside France and the United States, thereby abandoning their own nation in this noble struggle in favour of their own interests."
Budapest Mayor István Tarlós is due to meet with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán today to review the city’s bid.
It will follow a separate meeting between the City Assembly and the Government Cabinet.
Furjes is also due to hold a televised debate with Momentum Mozgalom chairman András Fekete-Győr at the Corvinus University of Budapest today.
Borkai has conceded, however, that the chances of Budapest being in the running come September 13, when a decision on the hosts of the 2024 Games is due to be made at the IOC Session in Peru’s capital Lima, are low.
"I am proud that Budapest has been referred to in recent months as a genuine contender, and I am proud to have been part of the successful presentation and work, but this process significantly harms the potential success of our bid," he added.
"At this time, unity has collapsed, and, in all honestly, the likelihood of Budapest’s name being announced in Lima in September is now minimal.
"The dreams of many athletes, Hungarians and children are now under serious threat, even though this country and this nation deserves this 120-year-old dream to one day become reality."