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Law proposes stripping Olympic Committee of authority and placing sports into government hands

Hungarian Olympic Committee chairman Zsolt Borkai

Along with Hungary’s constitution, the laws governing the county’s sports are also undergoing changes after a proposal was brought before Parliament on Monday to place control into the hands of the government, reports Index.hu.

The proposals would strip the Hungarian Olympics Committee (MOB) of much of its power and substantially strengthen the secretariat responsible for sports, a branch overseen by the Ministry of Human Resources. Fidesz politician and Minister of Human Resources Zoltán Balog submitted the changes to the law, which would give his ministry further authority in sport administration and distribution of expenses.

Reports suggest that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was dissatisfied with the 8 gold medals won by Hungary in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and the legal restructuring is an attempt to strengthen the country’s position in its bid to host the 2024 Olympics. While Hungary did lead the world in gold medals for a time during the Rio Olympics, its performance was eventually eclipsed by other countries. The mood in Rio was lackluster. Very few Hungarians made the trip to Brazil to support their teams and the medal tally was disappointing: Hungary made a better showing in the 2012 London Olympics with two more total medals and a better standing in the final tally.

Orbán reportedly told MOB chairman Zsolt Borkai in Rio that he was dissatisfied with the results and hadn’t seen signs of strong leadership. A parliamentary session was held on August 24, just after Orbán had returned from Rio, during which the MOB’s performance was reportedly discussed for an hour and a half. The committee, it was argued, had not availed itself of the money it had received since it took control of Hungarian sports in 2012, a sum never before spent on sport in Hungary.

Speculation on the weakening relationship between MOB and Orbán has been circulating since Rio, but Borkai and MOB undersecretary Bence Szabó have denied there are any plans to radically shift direction. These sudden proposals probably have them and their MOB staff scratching their heads and wondering how they, too, have fallen into the grip of the Orbán government. The law could be voted on as early as this week.


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