Hungarians are not convinced that hosting the Olympic Games is a good idea for a country that is struggling to pay its own doctors and nurses, according to a recent public opinion poll.
The Rio Olympics ended with a spectacular carnival-inspired closing ceremony and a great success for Hungarian athletes. With eight gold, three silver and four bronze medals, Team Hungary ranked 12th overall, thanks primarily to the extraordinary performances of swimmer Katinka Hosszú and other female athletes.
Now that the games have ended, attention turns to the question of which candidate city is to host the Olympic Games in 2024. Other candidates are Los Angeles, Paris and Rome. Tokyo will host the 2020 Games.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán even travelled to Rio de Janeiro where he took meetings with just about anyone who can conceivably influence the outcome. However, a large number of Hungarians are not convinced that hosting the Olympic Games is a good idea for a country that is struggling to pay its own nurses and doctors.
Hosting the summer Olympic Games costs billions. Rio is expected to lose at least USD 4.6 billion after a total investment of some USD 12 billion. The last profitable Olympics, on paper at least, took place in 1984 in Los Angeles, and that might have been a historical anomaly (the games were boycotted by the Soviet Union). The 1976 games in Montreal lost more than USD 1 billion.
“Hosting the games has become an increasingly expensive gambit; indeed, as the rules for bidding currently stand, the entire structure of the Olympic Games shouts ‘potential host beware’,” according to Robert A. Baade and Victor A. Matheson, sports economists who wrote a paper on the expense of hosting the Olympics, published in the Dublin-based daily newspaper Irish Times.
According to a poll conducted by Hungarian pollster Publicus Insititute (Publicus Intézet), concern over hosting the Summer Games of 2024 is shared by the majority of Hungarians. While a third of those surveyed followed the Rio Olympics closely and are proud of Hungarian athletes, half of the country does not support Budapest hosting the Olympics at all.
Most Hungarians (78 percent) agree that the Budapest Games would make the country better known. Six out of ten believe it would be good for the country’s reputation. However, 75 percent think that the Olympics would cost way too much money, and 64 percent of those surveyed believe that Hungary is too poor to be a host country.
Hosting the Olympics has also become a question of political support. While voters of the Hungarian Socialist Party (Magyar Szocialista Párt – MSZP) and the undecided don’t support hosting the Games at all, supporters of Fidesz are keener on the idea, but even among them, 56 percent agree that it would cost too much.
Corruption is also a source of concern: six out of ten Hungarians believe that nobody but businessmen loyal to Fidesz would benefit from the money pouring into the country.
Spend it on healthcare
As for the money, two-thirds of Hungarians believe that the government should spend the money either on healthcare (61 percent), education (28 percent) or fighting poverty (17 percent).
According to Publicus Institute, 50 percent of Hungarians are opposed to Budapest hosting the 2024 Olympics. The rate is even higher among MSZP supporters (63 percent) and those who do not watch the Games (60 percent). Only Fidesz supporters think otherwise: 68 percent believe Budapest should be the host city in eight years’ time.
Support for the Budapest Olympics falls spectacularly when people are confronted with a few facts. Of those initially supporting hosting the Games, 46 percent changed their minds after being told how much it would cost, and 39 percent lost their enthusiasm after learning that the sole beneficiaries of the investment would be Budapest and its environs.
No wonder six out of ten Hungarians think that the information the government is providing about the Olympics is one-sided and insufficient grounds for making an informed decision.