The Budapest metropolitan assembly on Wednesday approved a proposal declaring that the city will not host the 2023 World Athletics Championships if the government approves the construction of a campus for China’s Fudan University in place of a students’ quarter in the capital’s 9th district.
The proposal, adopted with 18 votes in favour and 13 against, also requires the government to ensure the continuation of the Healthy Budapest scheme. Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony, who submitted the motion, said that the municipal council had approved the city staging the World Athletics Championships in an earlier agreement with the government. That deal also covered developments like the continuation of the Healthy Budapest Programme and the construction of the students’ quarter in the 9th district, he said. Karácsony insisted, however, that the government had violated that agreement by passing the law on the establishment of a foundation to run Fudan University’s local campus. The mayor said all the municipal council could do in this case was “make it as clear as possible” that Budapest would honour the agreement with the government, adding that scrapping the plans to build the students’ quarter would “trigger an irreversible process”.
Referring to his talks with the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), Karácsony said it was clear that “world championships are not held in a city which does not support the event”. The assembly authorised the mayor to inform the IAAF about the decision should the government transfer the site on which the student complex should be built to the Fudan project. The assembly also called on the government not to go on with the Fudan project before a referendum was held on the contested scheme. Deputies of the ruling parties said that the city’s withdrawing its support from the championships had “no legal relevance”. Concerning the health programme, they said that the necessary financing was in place, but “there are delays in payments”.
The assembly also decided to make public transport free for users under 14 in a unanimous vote from September 2. According to the proposal, public transport user numbers have dropped by 30-40% since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic, and revenues dropped by 30 billion forints (EUR 86.2m).