World Aquatics Championship in 2017 with an eye toward hosting the Olympics in 2024

Writing posts for Hungarian Spectrum is a constant learning process. For example, what did I know about FINA’s World Aquatics Championships? Nothing, but now that Hungary foolishly offered to hold it in two years’ time I had to learn something about them in a great hurry. These world championships have been held every two years since 1972. The aquatic sports that are included are swimming, diving, open water swimming, synchronized swimming, and water polo. Hungary happens to be very competitive in aquatic sports, in seventh place in the all-time medal count, after the United States, China, Russia/Soviet Union, Australia, East Germany, and West Germany/Germany.

The aquatic world championships were held in Barcelona in 2013 and this year in Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia. Hungary was slated to hold the games in 2021, but in February of this year “a fantastic opportunity” presented itself. The Mexican city of Guadalajara decided that, for economic reasons, it would not be able to host the games in 2017. Surely, that came as an unpleasant surprise to FINA, the international governing body of aquatic sports. FINA’s president, Cornel Marculescu, asked Budapest whether they would be willing to switch. Tamás Gyárfás, who has been the president of the Hungarian Swimming Association since 1993, tried to sound cautious, but he was obviously excited about the prospect. The question was whether Viktor Orbán could be persuaded to spend large sums of money on the projects that had to be built in record time.

In less than three weeks, on March 11, 2015, Orbán and Marculescu signed the agreement. The eagerness of the prime minister might have something to do with Gyárfás’s clever pitch. It looks as if he sold Orbán on the idea by pointing out that if Hungary organizes a successful aquatic world championship in 2017, this might tip the scale in Hungary’s favor in its bid to hold the 2024 Olympics in Hungary. Such an argument most likely made an impression on Orbán, who has been dreaming about hosting the Olympic games in Budapest for at least fifteen years and would dearly love to do so while he is still prime minister of Hungary. And the clock is ticking down on his self-projected 20-year rule.

President Cornel Marculescu of FINA and Viktor Orbán, March 11, 2015

President Cornel Marculescu of FINA and Viktor Orbán, March 11, 2015

Gyárfás’s original figure for the project was 23 billion forints, which sounded low. And, indeed, it was. In mid-May Magyar Közlöny, the official government gazette, revealed that the government had put aside about 50 billion forints for the project for the next three years. As usual, government members came up with conflicting explanations for the discrepancy, which confused Hungarian journalists. In the end, it turned out that the original 23 billion figure will cover only the new swimming center that will be built where the Dagály Bath is currently situated, in a not so elegant section of the city. In addition, an incredible number of other projects will have to be completed before the world championships of 2017 can be held.

The vastness of this enterprise can be gleaned from an interview with Tamás Gyárfás, in which he gives a partial list of requirements for holding the games. There will be at least two centers of activities, one where the Dagály Bath is now and the other on Margit Sziget (Margaret Island). The competitors will have to be transported between the two locations, either by bus or perhaps by small boats on the Danube. The road where the Dagály Bath is located is in terrible shape. It has to be fixed. It turns out that the city also needs a building where the wares of hundreds of companies that manufacture sports items can be displayed. He also talked about a road between the metro station and the swimming complex. In addition, a pedestrian bridge will be built between the Dagály complex and Margit Sziget. But that’s not all. Margit Sziget also has to be fixed up. There are a couple of eyesores there: neglected tennis courts and buildings. They are thinking of having a “panorama restaurant” on top of the swimming complex. Yes, this would raise the costs by 1-2%, but in Gyárfás’s opinion it will become the favorite place in the capital. And let’s not forget about Balatonfüred where “at least one new center is needed” which later could be used as a conference center. The list seems endless.

Viktor Orbán’s latest foray into the world of sports has already drawn criticism even though work on the projects hasn’t yet begun. The organizers ordered a video with a song celebrating the event which turned out to be more about Viktor Orbán and other Fidesz politicians than about the swimmers. In the three-minute video Viktor Orbán appears nine times, Lajos Kósa, seven, Tamás Gyárfás six, and Zsolt Borkai, president of the Hungarian Olympic Committee, three. Among the many famous Hungarian swimmers, only Katina Hosszú and Dániel Gyurta can be seen. László Cseh, the famed five-time Olympic medalist, doesn’t appear at all. When Gyárfás was asked about this odd video, he assured people that they will change the video from time to time. However, Viktor Orbán’s role in this whole enterprise is so significant that his person cannot be ignored.

Who will benefit most from the government’s decision to hold the aquatic world championships? It will undoubtedly be István Garancsi, who is viewed as the next Lajos Simicska. His Market Építő won the contract for the 49 billion forint project. The opposition party PM argues that the contract should be voided because it was signed before the publication of the government authorization of the project. The PM chairman demands that Garancsi be disqualified. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

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Paul
Guest

That video reminded me I hadn’t watched this one for while…

or this one…

tappanch
Guest

“Viktor Orbán’s latest foray into the world of sports has already drawn criticism even though work on the projects hasn’t yet begun.”

The work has already started. (See my comment after your 06.19. article). The Northern 1/3 of the Dagaly bath, is completely laid waste, ALL of the old trees are cut. The construction work and the rest of Dagaly are separated by an ugly fence. The remaining magnificent Dagaly trees will be cut in the Fall I guess.

tappanch
Guest
tappanch
Guest

All of the Fidesz leaders come from outside Budapest. They seem to take a deep, almost sexual pleasure in clear cutting Budapest (which did not have too many trees to start with) – remember the area around the removed Karolyi sculpture, for instance.

Hangover
Guest

Not just that but fidezsniks are erecting distasteful buildings — the urban liberals looked down on the country bumpkin fideszniks and this is their revenge now.

Fideszniks hate Budapest and the people of Budapest, and the weakling liberals/urbanites never had a vision to reshape or reimagine Budapest so this is what they get now. They should have staged a revolution but the they are well-fed bourgeoise people who just don’t care.

The next will be a 14 m tall structure holding Imre Makovecz’ 2 m tall face right on the Danube below the Castle. Next after that will be the Rubic Cube shaped Rubkik Museum on the Danube and so on. It’s too late — the liberals and leftists are dead in the water and Fidesz has won. Game over.

Apostol
Guest

Its sad to see that what will replace the Dagaly will not be usable by the same people that enjoy those baths now. Families, children, and the elderly who make up the Dagaly crowd are not going to be hanging out at the new facilities once these Championships have come and gone.

Guest

Most likely, the facilities, once built, will not be properly maintained and will eventually become derelict in some years time. I hope to be wrong but this is what I witnessed sadly too often in Hungary.

Not only is this video awful, visually speaking; the future building looks enormous and will deface the bank of the Danube. I saw another video showing the Komjadi complex will be renovated. Is the indoor pool still open? I have the feeling every time I pass by it’s been abandoned for years.

Janos
Guest

According to Fidesz, Fidesz is getting more popular.

http://hvg.hu/itthon/20150622_Fel_ev_utan_ujra_nott_a_FideszKDNP_tamog

tappanch
Guest

The Orban government has committed perjury about Paks-2. Contrary to its legal depositions in front of courts, there were preparatory documents from 2013 and 2014.

They show that the Danube will heat up to 30 degrees, killing the fish. Paks-1 and Paks-2 cannot work completely simultaneously, i.e. their capacity cannot be simply added, and lots of other things.

Paks-1 in 2014: 15.65 TWh/year
Paks-1 after Paks-2.1 is completed: 14.35
Paks-1 after Paks-2.2 is completed : 10.38.

http://javorbenedek.blog.hu/2015/06/22/vannak_tanulmanyok_paks2-rol_de_nem_veletlenul_titkosak

Guest

Re: Orban the sports Meister!

Just an observation. It looks like he wants to stir the sports pot just as he has the country in the last few years. In a way, I’m not surprised he’s high on ‘vizilabda’ ( I like the way that sounds, really Magyar is a beautiful language , no?….;-)…

I think he sure is seeing the opportunity of getting Magyarorszag out there on the map. So water polo is on the stage in ’17, Budapest for the Euro Championships in 2020 and then perhaps ‘going for the gold’ by eventually hosting an Olympics.

I’m not sure if the teams will get to be champions but we can be sure they’ll be a nice marriage of sports, politics and advertising coming up. And to tell the truth I would love it if Magyarorszag could bag a Euro trophy. But I think they may have more of a statistical possibility of winning in ‘vizilabda’.

Gím
Guest
LwiiH
Guest

Hungary has been very successfully holding large international swimming meets like the European championships on Margit Sziget. The success of these events most likely gave FINA confidence that Hungary can deliver. Also, I believe these events have resulted in a lot of good will. Heavens knows, with OV about, this country needs all the good will it can muster. On balance, it makes much more sense to host this event than it does to build all of the useless football stadiums that have been built. As for the political grandstanding… what do you expect?

Paul
Guest

Surely, even Orbán can’t be seriously thinking of Hungary staging the Olympics?

Having just been through all that in the UK – a country infinitely richer and more able to stage the games than Hungary – it beggars belief that Orbán can even begin to have any idea of how much it’s going to cost Hungary and the organisational disaster it will become – let alone the financial meltdown it will leave behind.

There has to a limit, even to Orbán’s conceit and madness.

tappanch
Guest

June 23: The Orban government (“Hungarian state”) became the owner of the Dagaly bath today.The sycophant mayor of Budapest gave it away, free of charge.

http://hvg.hu/itthon/20150623_dagaly_atadas

rector
Guest

It’s more complicated than that.

Budapest is dependent on the government for its finances (true, because the local taxes are appropriated so nothing really remains in Budapest, but still the government has the purse) as BKV and a number of metropolitan companies, projects cannot be financed by Budapest alone.

The government thus can easily nationalize in a very ‘friendly’ way any- and everything since Budapest must ask every year for additional financing. “Do you want to get the state-guarantee for the metro line 3 finance? To bail out BKV? Good, then please give us this or that.” And Budapest does so.

Orban and his people hate Budapest and are having a great fun smothering it.

Tarlós couldn’t care less. But the liberal, urban people couldn’t care less either.

tappanch
Guest

News on June 24: the new owner of Dagaly bath (a state agency) will probably close it down on August 31.

Poor trees, poor people of Budapest….

http://hvg.hu/itthon/20150624_Allamon_mulik_hogy_nyitva_maradhat_e_a_Da

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