Underdogs? Not us, says Budapest 2024 bid leader
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Don't tell leaders of Budapest's bid that they are underdogs in the race for the 2024 Olympics. In fact, they say, the three other cities ''should be afraid of us.''
The Hungarian capital, which is competing against former Olympic host cities Los Angeles, Paris and Rome, has long been seen as the outsider in its campaign to stage the games for the first time.
''We do not approach in any way the underdog status because we don't have it,'' bid chairman Balazs Furjes said Tuesday. ''Budapest is not an underdog in this competition.''
All four bid cities sent leaders to Brazil to observe the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and pitch their case to IOC members. Tuesday was Budapest's first chance to present its bid at an international news conference.
''Budapest is an equal participant and has all the chances just like the others to finish No. 1,'' Furjes said when asked about the underdog label. ''We are honored to participate in this competition. As much as we are kind of afraid of them, they should be afraid of us in the spirit of Olympic values and friendship.''
Los Angeles, which hosted the Olympics in 1932 and 1984, is bidding to take the Summer Games to the United States for the first time since Atlanta hosted the event in 1996. Paris seeks to stage the Olympics on the 100th anniversary of the last time it hosted the games. Rome hasn't hosted the Olympics since 1960.
The International Olympic Committee will select the host city in September 2017.
Furjes said Budapest would offer a ''low-risk'' Olympics and ''refreshing model for compact and intimate games.''
Budapest, he said, would be the right choice in 2024 after a run of four ''mega-cities'' in a row - Beijing, London, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo. IOC President Thomas Bach's ''Olympic Agenda 2020'' reforms open the chance for ''midsize global cities'' to host the games, Furjes said.
The Budapest leaders claimed the average travel time between venues would be ''no more than 13 minutes,'' with most sports sites located within a 10-kilometer radius of the city center. Only five new additional venues would need to be built at a total cost of $350 million, they said.
Budapest also played up Hungary's long Olympic tradition, noting that it is the only country in the top 10 of the all-time medals list that has yet to host the games.
The government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban built razor-wire fences last year on the borders with Serbia and Croatia to keep out migrants and refugees trying to reach Western Europe. Orban has said Hungary does not want any migrants and described them recently as ''poison'' for the country.
Furjes was asked how the government's policy fits in with the Olympic bid and with the participation of a 10-member IOC refugee team in Rio under the Olympic flag.
''The refugee crisis is one of the largest global challenges of today,'' he said. ''This is truly a global challenge and only a global solution can work. ... What sports can do is bring people together. I'm proud to be a member of the Olympic movement welcoming the refugee team here in Rio and giving us the experience how sport can change lives for the better.''
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