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Hungary to withdraw Olympic bid: spokesman

Associated Press logo Associated Press 22/02/2017 Pablo Gorondi

Budapest will withdraw its bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, leaving only Los Angeles and Paris in the race.

Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs confirmed the withdrawal to The Associated Press on Wednesday (Thursday AEDT).

The joint decision by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Budapest Mayor Istvan Tarlos and the Hungarian Olympic Committee will be formally voted on by the Budapest City Assembly, where Orban's governing Fidesz party has a comfortable majority.

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

Fidesz officials said the decision was made to avoid a loss of prestige for Hungary.

"When the opposition attacked the Budapest bid in the back, it disrupted this unity (of support for the bid) and minimalised the chances of the capital city," Fidesz parliamentary leader Lajos Kosa said in a statement.

"Today only one responsible decision is possible to avoid Hungary's loss of international prestige."

The bid was expected to face a city-wide referendum promoted by the Momentum Movement, a new political party, which in 30 days gathered more than 266,000 signatures in favour of holding a vote.

The referendum drive also drew the support of some other opposition parties.

Several attempts to hold national or Budapest referendums on the Olympics were either blocked by the courts or abandoned.

Earlier Wednesday, officials were already hinting at a withdrawal as a drawn out referendum campaign and faltering popular support for the Olympics were seen as hurting Orban's party in next year's parliamentary elections.

Bid chairman Balazs Furjes said it made no sense to continue the effort unless widespread political support was restored, describing Budapest's bid as a "lame duck" in the current political climate.

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