Budapest 2024 Nonprofit Zrt., a state-owned company co-founded by Budapest City Council and the Hungarian Olympic Committee, is being stuffed with public funds, funds that are being squandered on Hungary’s bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games, report 444.hu and nol.hu.
It all started with a 1,300-page feasibility study performed by PriceWaterhouseCooper (PwC) in 2015. The study, which initially was not released to the public, was eventually shortened into a 100-page summary and given to Budapest City Council. The city council used this document to green light Budapest’s bid for the Olympics.
The full PwC feasibility study was kept under a lid for quite some time, despite the Data Protection Office ruling that it was information in the public interest. The Hungarian Olympic Committee eventually made the entire study public following several leaks to the press. But its full release came only after Budapest and the Hungarian Olympic Committee submitted the letter of intent to bid to the International Olympic Committee.
“All this was done in a manner that prevented the general public from offering its opinion on a project that would influence the Hungarian state budget for decades to come,” writes 444.
According to the feasibility study, one of the risks Hungary would face in its bid would be a referendum seeking to prevent the games from being held in the country’s capital.
It came as no surprise, therefore, that Hungary’s highest court, the Curia, shot down an attempt to hold a referendum on the the issue in early 2016.
Had Hungarians been aware of the details surrounding the bid before the Olympic Committee made official its intentions to host the games, it is likely the public would not have gone along with the plans.
A representative public opinion poll conducted by polling firm Publicus found that the majority of Hungarians do not support hosting the Olympic Games in Hungary. If the Curia had green lighted the referendum, Budapest would have likely found itself in the same boat as Hamburg, which was forced to withdraw its intent to bid for the games following a defeat at the polls.
Budapest 2024 Nonprofit Zrt.
Budapest 2024 Nonprofit Zrt. is a non-profit closed-stock corporation created by Budapest City Council and the Hungarian Olympic Committee. The operating expenses of Budapest 2024 are covered by the state budget to the tune of HUF 9.5 billion (USD 32 million) per year (for both 2016 and 2017). That comes to just over USD 5 million a month.
So far, both Átlátszó.hu and nol.hu have struggled to obtain information related to Budapest 2024’s spending. The state-owned and publicly funded enterprise has responded to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests with a bill detailing how much it would cost them to summarize the information requested. Based on the information provided by Budapest 2024, it is clear that the bulk of funds are being spent on consulting fees.
A summary of the spending so far, based on information made public through FOI requests and public procurement announcements, can be read below.
In March, Budapest 2024 had planned to spend HUF 5.1 billion (USD 19 million) on consulting fees over the following 18 months. This number later increased by HUF 607 million, not including the HUF 700 million spent on the PWC feasibility study. The new amount will be paid to PWC, Lausanne-based Event Knowledge Services SA and London-based M-Integrated Solution Ltd.
Budapest 2024 is renting office space in the Hungarian National Bank’s recently acquired Eiffel Palace office building for HUF 17.2 million. The Olympic company is also renting office space and parking in the 2nd District from Kafex Ingatlanberuházó és Hasznosító Kft. for a total of HUF 140 million.
On April 15, 2016, the number of employees working for Budapest 2024 was 43, but the hiring of an additional 8 employees also prompted the company to issue a public tender to purchase additional office furniture.
Budapest 2024 will also pay HUF 900 million to Media Insight Médiaügynökség Kft. and Humán Telex Reklám Tanácsadó és Szolgáltató Kft. for social dialogue, something resembling community outreach, such as promoting the Budapest 2024 logo, organizing an Olympic Day event and creating a “Mobile Visitors Center”.
HUF 94.5 million (USD 350,000) has been spent on office furniture, IT equipment, a server and anti-virus software.
Two law offices have been awarded HUF 100 million to perform corporate law consulting services. An architect office was awarded HUF 17.4 million, and Médianéző Kft. (owned by prime ministerial advisor Árpád Habony’s business partner) was paid HUF 7.6 million to monitor and analyze the media.
But this HUF 7 billion is not the total amount squandered to date on Hungary’s bid to host the Olympic Games. Unfortunately, Hungary’s Olympic Committee has yet to officially declare how much it has spent.
Last December, the committee paid some HUF 360 million to Csaba Csetényi’s Network 360 Reklámügynökség Kft. and Affiliate Network Kft. to plan and coordinate media events tied to Olympic events.
According to 444, the Budapest Olympic Games will have several other costs that must be paid regardless of whether the games come to Hungary, such as the Dagály swimming complex being built by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s friend, István Garancsi. The swimming complex, originally expected to cost “only” HUF 25 billion (USD 92 million), will probably cost somewhere around HUF 90 billion (USD 333 million).
444 reports the base cost to Hungary of hosting the games will be somewhere around HUF 774 billion, but will likely cost substantially more. If the necessary infrastructure development projects are also worked into the project’s cost, the amount may rise to as much as HUF 2.8 trillion (USD 10.3 billion), that is roughly USD 1,100 for every man, woman, and child living in Hungary.