MSZP and the Hungarian bid to host the Olympics in 2024

A new poll was published today, this time by the Nézőpont Intézet. It reaffirmed an earlier poll showing that Fidesz’s popularity is on the rise again, most likely due to the government’s misleading propaganda about the asylum seekers. The parties of the democratic opposition haven’t gained any new followers. The only surprise in the poll was that among potential voters MSZP and DK are neck to neck.

Of course, Nézőpont is not known for its political neutrality and therefore its results are suspect, but this time I wouldn’t be at all surprised if its finding that only 12% of potential voters support MSZP was accurate. The party is in disarray and the incompetence of its leadership is staggering.

By way of illustration, today I’m going to look at MSZP’s position on the Hungarian bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games.

It was just question of time: the idea of a Hungarian Olympics was bound to resurface. In 2001-2002 the first Orbán government eagerly supported the idea. A considerable amount of money was spent on feasibility studies, which naturally confirmed that nothing stood in the way of holding the games in Hungary. Luckily, Viktor Orbán lost the 2002 election, and with his defeat the idea died.

After Orbán’s victory in 2010, when the Fidesz leadership claimed that the country was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and that its economy was comparable to that of Greece, even the sports-crazed prime minister knew better than to float the idea of hosting the Olympic Games again. But as soon as there was one good year, which saw a growth rate of 3.6%, Orbán moved into action. A so-called non-political group, the Budapest Olympic Movement, was formed to promote the economic benefits of such an event. The people in this group all have ties to the government party. The president of the group is Attila Szalay-Berzeviczy, an economist and avid sportsman, whose great grandfather was the founder and the first president of the Hungarian Olympic Committee between 1895 and 1904. Szalay-Berzeviczy played a similar role in the 2001-2002 attempt to bring the Olympics to Hungary.

Unfortunately, most people have mighty little knowledge of the cost of hosting an Olympics. And their national pride swells at the very thought of being in the international spotlight for a couple of weeks. I suspect that the majority of the people, if asked, would support the idea.

Olympics 2024

Since most of the events would take place in Budapest, the city council had to vote on whether they would stand behind the games. Given the composition of the city council, it was not surprising that the final vote was 25 to 1 with one abstention. Antal Csárdi, the single LMP member of the council, voted against it, while DK’s Erzsébet Gy. Nagy abstained. That meant that the MSZP members of the council and Gergely Karácsony, the sole PM mayor in Budapest, voted with Fidesz for the Olympics. I heard Csaba Horváth’s feeble explanation of his decision, in which he called attention to the long overdue infrastructure projects that the games would bring to the capital. I haven’t seen Karácsony anywhere since.

Most people who consider the whole idea suicidal could barely recover from their surprise that MSZP would lend its name to the project. But in the next few days the number of MSZP politicians supporting Orbán’s megalomaniac idea multiplied. László Botka, MSZP mayor of Szeged, opted to follow the lead of the Budapest socialist leaders who by then included Ágnes Kunhalmi, the Budapest chairman. I used to think highly of Kunhalmi, until I heard her say that “the concept of a profitable Olympics is not well known” because the government hasn’t publicized it. A profitable Olympics? Surely, Kunhalmi didn’t spend any time reading up on the subject. The truth is that even a cursory look at economic analyses of the Olympic Games shows that, with one possible exception, they were losing propositions.

At this point, most people figured that MSZP would support the government party and vote for the bill in parliament to empower the country to proceed with its application. But then came the bombshell. Zoltán Gőgös, deputy chairman of the party, announced that the socialists would refuse to support the bill. Total chaos. Obviously, party discipline is not a socialist strength. Even members of the top leadership don’t seem to talk to each other before they speak publicly or vote on issues. When Gőgös was asked by György Bolgár how such a situation could possibly develop, Gőgös’s only answer was that no decision was made by the leadership until the issue reached parliament. Again, a feeble answer to a botched up affair. How can such a party possibly compete against a disciplined Orbán-led Fidesz?

I have neither time nor space to reproduce the government’s propaganda list of the benefits of holding the games in Hungary. But no matter what the government argues, the reality is that Olympic Games are not money-makers. Even Szalay-Berzeviczy is hard pressed to come up with an economically profitable Olympics. The one exception may be the 2012 London Olympics. Common wisdom holds that the games boosted the UK economy by £9.9bn, but not everybody agrees with this assessment. Sports economist Stefan Szymanski said that coming up with exact figures is “almost like a bit of creative accounting.” Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Resarch, said that attributing the economic growth to the Olympics was “a little far-fetched to say the least.”

The New York Times published an article titled “Does Hosting the Olympics Actually Pay Off?” The answer is no. According to the article, “there is strikingly little evidence that such events increase tourism or draw new investment. Spending lavishly on a short-lived event is, economically speaking, a dubious long-term strategy. Stadiums, which cost a lot and produce minimal economic benefits, are a particularly lousy line of business. (This is why they are usually built by taxpayers rather than by corporations.)”  The author quotes an economist who has studied the impact of sporting events, who said: “the bottom line is every time we’ve looked–dozens of scholars, dozens of times–we find no real change in economic activity.”

Another article’s author asks, “Do the Olympic Games generate profits?” And the answer: “No. Unfortunately, they do not.” And who said that? Robert Barney, head of the International Center for Olympic Studies. According to him, “no city has profited in the long run from its hosting role in a purely bottom-line sense.”

Nonetheless, there are at least three MSZP members of parliament who feel so strongly about the issue that they received exemptions from voting against the bill: Ágnes Kunhalmi, László Varga (Miskolc), and Sándor Szabó (Szeged). I wish they would spend a little time learning about the economics of the Olympic Games.

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July 1, 2015 6:48 pm

In an interview leading up to the Montreal olympics, in 1976, Major Jean Drapeau stated that “for an olympic game to loose money is as impossible as a man becoming pregnant.”
The staggering losses of this Montreal games, one of the most beautiful and most successful, those losses took thirty years by the time the city could pay them off.
But as an exception, if memory serves, the Los Angeles games made a minuscule profit, probably because it was the second time in that city and so, some of the infrastructure was already built and because it was run by a strict group of business men.

July 1, 2015 11:54 pm

I remember LA as being a model where it made money. The Rose bowel was used but then it didn’t need much in renovation because it had been in use since it was built. Plus LA had a lot of the infrastructure already in place simply because it is a large well developed metropolitan city. As for London, large well developed metropolitan area with most of the needed infrastructure all ready in place. Montreal was ripe with corruption and labour disputes and required a significant investment in infrastructure so no wonder that it took so long to pay for them. Budapest needs way more infrastructure work than Montreal did and the problems with corruption are much bigger.

I personally made great use of the Olympic park in Montreal so I’m happy it was built. The way things are fenced in and locked up in Hungary you do get the impression that the facilities would be left mostly unused. Look at the brand new very nice stadium that FTC has. As often as I’ve driven past it I’ve never seen it host a single event.

July 1, 2015 8:20 pm

OT: For some comic relief, please come to the US Washington Beltway-Insiders Blog Roll:

July 1, 2015 8:48 pm

Reka’s a gas, ain’t she?
Ok, “co-operation”…Let’s start with Hungary housing some rapid-response, Nato armaments and soldiers against the Russian menace in the Ukraine. Let’s hear what Reka has to stay about that topic.

July 1, 2015 8:57 pm

Boy, I have to say I expected a bit more from Mr. Olah. He ain’t no Magyar ‘Talleyrand’ I can see that. Now is that weak effort the extent of Hungarian diplomacy today? Now I understand why I haven’t seen ‘debates’ on the issues or a constructive attempt to get ‘dialogue’ going. A vid is a thousand words. Thank you.

And the Russian menace. Hungary should watch out. They may have a tiger on the tail with that one.
July 1, 2015 9:20 pm

Having Hungary host the Olympics is big joke. They should search all income Hungarians for poison. The Hungarians are not allowed to carry guns but they carry POISON. Look into it and report your findings.

July 1, 2015 10:35 pm

I know some hospital workers who make 90,000 and have just received a raise….of 4,000…PER MONTH. They must be super-pleased to find the brainy leadership ready to pony up some many trillions (let’s stay with HUF) to host the Olympics. If it wasn’t so sad, one might even laugh about it.

July 1, 2015 10:37 pm

Everything can wait, until Hungarians eliminate the political criminals.

Greece is the warning.

The Hungarian courts have to try all those who have damaged the treasury and national economy.

The courts have to try themselves, too.

July 2, 2015 12:24 am

The bad news is in for Muslims and Jobbik. Apparently, the worldwide jewish population is up to over 14 million. The Muslim bigwigs are worried that their economic muscle may be compromised and partisan elements, like the Economist, may now swing back to unbiased reporting.

As for Jobbik, gossip has it that the wildly populating European jews have been directed by the chief rabbi of Israel to leave their countries and head to Hungary where, the country suffering a massive brain drain, is willing to accept the fleeing jews as a means of convincing the EU to spare the country from the economic, darky, immigrants from the south…

(Hey, it’s tough to follow Hungarian racism without a program!)

July 2, 2015 2:58 am

The Olympic games were meant to be a less damaging substitute for war. Wonderful idea that does’nt work. Look at Sochi and Ukraina.

Hungary should drop the Olympics and strengthen its defence capabilities.

July 2, 2015 12:22 pm

They working on it: erecting a chicken fence all along the southern border.
If it won’t stop any of those invading forces, nothing will…

July 2, 2015 4:44 am
“As American as apple pie.” is a phrase often employed. It can be used positively or pejoratively, as in “Racism is as American as apple pie.” Maybe “As Magyar as gulyás.” might be a suitable Hungarian equivalent. And perhaps talking big with no sense of reality to back it up might be a Magyar ‘gulyás’ example. MSZP is actually not loozing anything by jumping on the Olympics bandwagon. Hungary has a snowball’s chance in hell of getting the 2024 Olympics nod, thanx to Viktor Orbán’s crappy reputation in the real world. As for the 2028 Olympics, the chances of snagging it would be marginally better, especially if Fidesz were to looze the next (2018) election. Fidesz seems to be regaining its popularity using immigrant bashing as its main weapon. Pushing for a gulyás-in-the-sky daydream is another way to swell its chest (and standing) in front of the unthinking. The reality is that MSZP’s position is stupid (if it really believes what it says) or cynical (if it’s playing ‘politics as usual’). The bottomline is that MSZP is unprincipled. It’s trying to curry favor with the electorate (by supporting something that looks good (on paper) but has no real chance of… Read more »
July 2, 2015 12:37 pm

“Hungary has a snowball’s chance in hell of getting the 2024 Olympics nod..”

You know, why?
Because they’re insisting on that Budapest should host the games, instead of taking the only logical step toward the ‘Greatest Olympics of All Times’, and would center all the money and hard work at Felcsút!

I am sure, it would turn to reality in no time!

How those MSZP jokers could miss such golden opportunity? Its beyond me, really..

“Felcsút Summer Olympics 2024” – don’t tell me, that it won’t be a great success?

July 2, 2015 5:49 am

Here is another roll call. The name of the people, who were fired from state leadership positions this year, because they were appointed as clients of oligarch Simicska.
[Simicska fell out with Orban several months ago]

The latest “victim” is the head of the state lottery.
Ildiko Vida is still the chairwoman of the Hungarian IRS, since she is a personal friend
of Orban’s as well.

July 2, 2015 11:24 am

Re: ‘As American as apple pie’..

And taking into account the agricultural and rural nature of Hungary I’ll add another quip on the attempt of the country to get the great Games. So on that I’d say they will ‘buy the farm’.

I cannot get away from the image of wolves feasting on the table getting ready the scraps and chunks of tasty ‘gulyas and hus’ like kickbacks, graft and gelt coming around with those games.
Putin’s Sochi adventure must have made their eyes bulge with the pickings.

So if Hungary does manage to pull something off and ‘get’ the Olympics look for a set of avians to descend on the country and land their seat next to the crooks at the table. Vultures will never have it so good dining and at the same irreparably harming the country.