Budapest 2024
Budapest 2024

Budapest mayor may propose withdrawing 2024 Olympic bid

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The mayor of Budapest said Friday he may propose withdrawing the city’s bid for the 2024 Olympics as soon as next week.

Speaking to news site Index.hu, Istvan Tarlos said he could make his proposal to the Budapest Assembly as soon as Wednesday, once he has confirmed the position of the government and the Hungarian Olympic Committee, both of which said a decision on withdrawing the bid rested with city authorities.

Tarlos’ statement came after the apparent success of a petition launched by opponents of the bid, who presented election officials with forms containing 266,151 signatures seeking a referendum, far more than the minimum of 138,000 valid signatures needed.

Budapest City Hall did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

“Over a quarter million signatures have come together so this money is spent on modern hospitals and well-equipped schools instead of on the Olympics,” said Andras Fekete-Gyor, chairman of Momentum Movement, a new political group behind the initiative.

He added it would be “cowardly” if authorities tried to block the referendum or withdrew the candidacy without allowing the referendum to take place.

“We emphatically request Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Mayor Istvan Tarlos to hold the referendum and refrain from blocking it from being held,” Fekete-Gyor said at Budapest City Hall. “Not asking people’s opinions about organizing the Olympics in Hungary was a huge omission on their part.”

Earlier Friday, Tarlos said he would consider withdrawing if enough people backed the referendum but said it was “treason” on part of the opposition to abandon its support for the bid.

The head of the Hungarian Olympic Committee said the decision was up to the Budapest Assembly and blamed the opposition parties, some of which helped gather signatures for the referendum, with splitting Hungarian society.

“With this activity, they have greatly weakened and constantly weaken Budapest’s chances and weaken Hungary’s bid,” committee chairman Zsolt Borkai said in a statement.

The bid has received strong backing from Orban, an avid sports enthusiast, though last year he compared Budapest to David competing against the Goliaths of Los Angeles and Paris, the remaining bidders after Hamburg and Rome withdrew their candidacies.

Fekete-Gyor said election officials had 45 days to review the signatures and determine whether the valid number had been reached. Several earlier attempts to hold similar referendums in Budapest or nationally were either blocked by the courts or abandoned.

The International Olympic Committee will select the host city in September.

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UCI looks for new host for 2020 World Road Cycling Championships

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The International Cycling Union (UCI) is looking for a new host for the 2020 World Road Cycling Championships due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Switzerland can no longer host the week-long event in late September after a national decision to extend a ban on events with more than 1,000 people through next month.

Amid reports the competition has been canceled, the UCI clarified Wednesday that it still hopes to hold it in some form, perhaps without some of the junior or senior races.

It now seeks an “alternative project,” preferably still in Europe and on the same dates (Sept. 20-27).

Worlds were due to start in Switzerland on the same day that the rescheduled Tour de France ends, though the senior elite men’s races are typically not on the first three days.

The Tour de France is still scheduled to start Aug. 29.

Last year, American Chloe Dygert starred at road worlds, winning the time trial in dominant fashion. Other world champions in Olympic events: Annemiek van Vleuten (road race), Rohan Dennis (time trial) and Mads Pedersen (road race).

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Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15 in 2000

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In the biggest race of his young life, a 15-year-old Michael Phelps turned for the last 50 meters in fourth place of the U.S. Olympic Trials 200m butterfly final on Aug. 12, 2000.

His mom, Debbie, couldn’t watch. She turned away from the Indianapolis Natatorium pool and stared at the scoreboard. Both Debbie and Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman, mentally prepared their consolation speeches for the rising Towson High School sophomore outside Baltimore.

Then Phelps, fueled by nightly Adam’s Mark chicken sandwich-and-cheesecake room service and amped by pre-race DMX on his CD player, turned it on. He zoomed into second place, becoming the youngest U.S. male swimmer to qualify for an Olympics since 1932.

Phelps had “come out of nowhere in the last six months” to become an Olympic hopeful, NBC Sports swimming commentator Dan Hicks said on the broadcast. True, Phelps chopped five and a half seconds off his personal best that March.

“He doesn’t know what it means to go to the Olympics and how it’s going to change his life,” Tom Malchow, the 1996 Olympic silver medalist who held off Phelps in that trials final, said that night, according to The Associated Press. “He’s going to find out soon.”

Phelps, who did his trademark arm flaps before the trials final, made Bowman look like a prophet. Four years earlier, the coach sat Debbie down for a conversation she would not soon forget.

“Told me what he projected for Michael,” Debbie said, according to the Baltimore Sun‘s front-page story on a local 15-year-old qualifying for the Sydney Games. “He said that in 2004, he would definitely be a factor in the Olympics. He also said that he could be there in 2000, to watch out for him. At the time, he was only 11.”

The trials were bittersweet for the Phelps family. Whitney, one of Phelps’ older sisters, withdrew before the meet with herniated discs in her back that kept her from making an Olympics after competing in the 1994 World Championships at age 14.

After Phelps qualified for the Olympics, one of the first people to embrace him was Whitney on the pool deck.

The next week, Phelps, still with bottom-teeth braces, did his first live TV sitdown on CNN, swiveling in his chair the whole time, according to his autobiography, “Beneath the Surface.”

The next month, Phelps finished fifth in his Olympic debut, clocking a then-personal-best time that would have earned gold or silver at every previous Olympics.

Following the Olympic race, gold medalist Malchow patted Phelps on the back, according to “No Limits,” another Phelps autobiography. What did Malchow say?

“The best is ahead of you.”

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