Dictatorship in sports: The case of the Hungarian Swimming Association

For a whole week the Hungarian media has been fixated on the renewed controversy between Katinka Hosszú and the Hungarian Swimming Association (Magyar Úszószövetség/MÚSZ). Hosszú is Hungary’s swimming star who at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro won three gold medals, in two events breaking the Olympic record, and one silver medal.

This is not the first time that Katinka Hosszú and Tamás Gyárfás, president of MÚSZ, have clashed over the association’s supervision of Hungarian swimming. In January 2016 the two were at loggerheads over the less than satisfactory conditions under which Hungarian swimmers were forced to prepare for international meets and, of course, for the approaching Olympics.

It was not a coincidence that Hosszú was the first to complain. She was being trained by her husband, the American Shane Tusup, who devised a regimen that, since 2012, had propelled Hosszú to an incredible series of wins. Although the couple has been living in Hungary for the last three years, the association never approached Tusup for any training advice.

In January, when I first wrote about the conflict between Hosszú and Gyárfás, I called it “a clash between the old and the new.” At this time I was referring only to coaching methods and swimming equipment. Today the conflict has widened. It is now between a new generation of athletes and MÚSZ, a typical Hungarian sports association. This new generation of athletes is no longer willing to be at the mercy of the association and its arbitrary distribution of money. Tamás Gyárfás has been president of MÚSZ for the last 23 years and in this capacity he decides how the funds he receives from the government should be spent. He is the final arbiter of everything related to swimming. For example, as Hosszú tells the story, eight years ago Gyárfás told her that she should retire from swimming. At this point Hosszú took her career into her own hands and left for the University of Southern California to get a degree and train there.

Viktor Orbán and Tamás Gyárfás

Viktor Orbán and Tamás Gyárfás as sports diplomats

Tamás Gyárfás most likely unwittingly demonstrated the nature of his relationship with the athletes when last January he publicly aired his disappointment over the fact that his “sweet little Katinka” is no more. In order to be in the good graces of Gyárfás, the athlete, who is totally at his mercy, must remain quiet. But now Gyárfás has to face an “iron lady,” as Hosszú calls herself. I’m certain that the bigwigs at MÚSZ blame this “unfortunate” transformation on her American trainer and husband, a foreigner who wants to tell them what to do and what not to do. The clash was inevitable.

Back in January Viktor Orbán himself asked the two to restrain themselves because, after all, the Olympic Games were approaching. But now, given the size of the revolt, I doubt that Orbán will defend Gyárfás. He may well decide to end Gyárfás’s 23-year career at MÚSZ even though Gyárfás is considered to be the consummate survivor. He was described in an opinion piece that appeared in 168 Óra as a “truly emblematic figure of the muddled decades between Potemkin socialism and trashy capitalism.” In the author’s opinion, the achievements of Hosszú and Tusup are the result of their own talent and hard work. Gyárfás’s talent is merely to make unacceptable compromises in order to survive. “A country that remunerates that kind of talent is hopeless.”

In a way, Gyárfás is responsible for the outbreak of this widespread revolt against not only his position but the institution itself. He gave an interview on November 15 in which he boasted that all is well with MÚSZ and “as far as the relationship between MÚSZ and Hosszú is concerned, all is quiet.” Well, Hosszú made sure that the quiet would not last long. A few hours after the interview appeared she fired back. She pointed out that Gyárfás’s claim that Hungarian swimming “has never been better” is simply untrue. She added that Gyárfás can remain in his position only because “we bring the results.” In her opinion the presence of Gyárfás at the head of MÚSZ is damaging for the sport. She called on him to resign.

This time Hosszú was not alone. She was followed in rapid succession by all the Hungarian swimming medalists in Rio. A day later one of the coaches joined the athletes. By that time they were not satisfied with Gyárfás’s resignation. They also wanted the resignation of András Hargitay, the head coach (szövetségi kapitány) who took over László Kiss’s job after Kiss’s rape case from 60 years ago came to light. Hargitay is a retired swimmer from the 1970s who has no coaching experience. Index described him as “Gyárfás’s creation.” Attila Czene, a gold medal winner at the Atlanta Olympics who later served as undersecretary responsible for sports, called MÚSZ a dictatorship and said that “this was the situation already in our time,” meaning the 1990s.

A few words about Shane Tusup’s role in this affair. The Hungarian swimming establishment greatly resents him. Admittedly, he is not an easy man to get along with, but the other day I came to the realization that the fact that he is not a Hungarian may go a long way toward explaining this resentment. I base this on the intemperate reaction of Henrik Havas, a reporter ever since the late 1970s, who moderates a weekly news roundtable on ATV. The most recent show aired on Saturday night and, among other topics, dealt with the storm swirling around MÚSZ. It was during that discussion that Havas lashed out against Tusup. What does this man think? Did he think he was going to Uganda instead of Hungary? Hungary is a powerhouse of aquatic sports. He comes here to teach us? Havas continued in this vein without allowing his guests to say a word. When he was finished with his harangue he abruptly asserted: “let’s move on.” Some of the problems Hosszú and Tusup are facing are not of their own making.

The animosity against Tusup leads me to recent findings documenting the general xenophobia that exists in Hungary. Both Tárki and Závecz came out with their latest polls only a few days ago and found that the fear and hatred of foreigners has never been higher in the country. To the question “If someone asked your opinion whether you would consent to a neighbor who is….” incredible results emerged. Arabs (with a 21% acceptable neighbor rating) are more hated today than Gypsies (32%). Even Christian Syrians are taboo (35%). But don’t think that Americans are much better off: only 50% of Hungarians wouldn’t mind having an American neighbor. They would be even happier with a rock musician (60%).

November 21, 2016
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Member
Hungarians relate to foreigner quite opposite to the way most Americans do. We are used to the fact, that most of us came from somewhere or our parents or grandparents are from somewhere else and we all became Americans. Companies hire the best candidates, best brains they can get for the money and it is not terribly important where that person was born or got his education, as long as he can do a very good job. Politics are not involved in this decision, because business has to use the best resources to be successful and politics have no place in the workplace while performing a job. Hungarians think and behave quite the opposite way. You need to know somebody, who is biased toward you and will help you to get the job against other candidates, even if those are better than you. It is called “protekció” which really means connection, being connected with someone, who is a friend, a relative, a friend of a friend or somebody who owes the person a favor. This behavior may have roots from the Middle-Eastern behavior learned in Medieval times, perhaps during the 150 years of Turkish occupation. Other example: Paying the doctors… Read more »
Guest

Gyula, good that you wrote “most Americans do” because right now we see a kind of wave against foreigners in the USA and also in “civilised” Western Europe against certain foreigners.

It seems that the whole world is going backwards in the direction of the Middle Ages – a horrible idea!

Member

I guess you refer to the Americans CNN and the media want to show as typical, with “Heil Hitler salute”.

true 1956
Guest

Greetings to wolfi from Tübingen.
Wrong, wrong, wrong!
Most Americans are very tolerant.
Our hospitality has been strained by plenty of bad citizens from all over the world.
Their children will be certainly model Americans.-

Tyrker
Guest

Excellent timing to praise “most Americans,” Gyula 😉
As wolfi says, these days Americans actually tend to come across as a hugely xenophobic lot…

Ferenc
Guest

I doubt if the “doctors money” has “baksis” background.
Personally I first heard about these ‘expected payments’ from a Polish collegue, who had to be hospitalised with a serious desease. I thought then that this was ‘Polish’, but later on experienced that it was ‘Hungarian’ also.
Don’t know about this in other former ‘east-block’ countries, but my guess is that the ‘hálópénz’ system developed in (Soviet) communist societies.

Ferenc
Guest

correction: ‘hálópénz’ should read ‘hálapénz’

petofi
Guest

I remember my time many years ago when I taught for a year in the English program of a Hasidic school. The kids were told by their religious teachers to ignore what the English teachers were trying to teach them. I objected to the principle of the English section, and I also objected to teaching English reading from a text that had a story of the 16th century detailing how jewish kids were kidnapped by priests and raised as Christian. “This is clearly racist,” I stated. In time,
I realized that the hasid group maintained their unity and cohesion by spreading fear in their community.

Well, the Hungarians are at that level–in the 21st century, they do exactly the same thing by claiming that the outside world is against them…

Ferenc
Guest

Checked the results to that question “If someone asked your opinion whether you would consent to a neighbor who is…”. Especially the deviation (by party support) from the average, (my) summary as follows:
*Fidesz most against all foreigners and homosexuals
*Jobbik most against gypsies and least against americans
*MSZP/DK most against ‘four-children families’
*DK most against ‘erdélyi magyar’ immigrants and least against chinees, arabs and syrian christian refugees
*MSZP least against african university students and syrian christian refugees

Well then loooking to who are closer to/differ more from me (I don’t have any objections to anybody, as long as he/she respecting others): MSZP/DK supporters are closest and Fidesz supporters differ most, i.e.even more than Jobbik one’s.
That last is still not positive for both supporters, but suprised me anyway.
The one thing I’m curious about is that how far the ‘follow the leader’ syndrom is influencing party supporters, especially the Fidesz one’s.

An example of that syndrom I recently saw in HIRTV’s ‘Főszerkesztők klubja’, in which the Magyar Demokrata editor-in-chief doesn’t want to show up anymore. He had been consequently repeating Fidesz texts, was presented a mirror of himself by other participants and didn’t like how he was seen. (see Nov.06 ‘szép halál’ program)

Alex Kuli
Guest

OT:
How do you shake up a party that’s perennially languishing near the bottom of opinion surveys? Oh how? How?
Hmmm… the party president could pose with a porn star. I guess that’s one way.
http://hvg.hu/itthon/20161122_Pornosztarral_pozolt_Gyurcsany_a_repteren__foto

Guest

Since the production of pron might be second in value to the automobile production in Hungary (at least export wise) this might not be a bad idea …

Member
Americans are xenophobes? I think not, most of them just had enough. We (the so called American people) did not change overnight after the election of Trump and the gross failure of the lying, brainwashing media. The media is dispensing political brainwash and not news, they have political agenda and bet big time on the Democrats, so with Hillary it would have been “business as usual”. It seems, that when a party serves only the establishment and itself, when Democrats want to turn the country into a socialist system, doling out money and foodstamps and promising lawbreakers, illegal immigrants citizenship to buy votes, we the American people don’t always go along with it. Unfortunately the alternative put in front of us was not much better, but at least it is NOT business as usual. The riff-raff, the ultra right and the nazi saluting idiot are not going to hijack the society. Also, a President is just that, the Executive Branch. The Congress, Republicans and Democrats and Independents, makes laws and governs the country, not a dictator in the presidential office. Not even Obama thought that he can govern only with executive orders and circumnavigate Congress and the Constitution, but the… Read more »
Guest

Was this meant as a satirical piece?

petofi
Guest

Gyula:

I agree and disagree with your comments.
Yes, the media showed huge bias and Hillary represented ‘business as usual’–that, along with the fact that most women understood that her greedy, ambitious, self-hate was toxic…led them to vote against her in bigger numbers than anybody expected. But the truth is out even though the pundits still can’t understand what went wrong (People just didn’t like, or trust, her.)

But I don’t agree with the second part of your submission. Rather than blaming Obama, do you not remember that it was the Tea Party Republicans that brought government to a standstill for months? That is not supposed to happen. Deal-making, which means compromise, should be a part of american governance but the Republicans did everything to stop Obama governing effectively.

petofi
Guest

But the election was also the people’s decision on the Obama presidency. I don’t agree with it: I thought he did reasonably well domestically (although underestimating the push back of the huge insurance/health lobby), but he was disastrous in foreign politics. As the leader of the free world he forgot (probably, never knew) that power politics supercedes laissez-faire, gentlemanly, actions in the international sphere.

webber
Guest

The election had very little to do with foreign policies, except trade policy. American working class people apparently hate NAFTA and fear TTP and TTIP. They quite apparently want higher import taxes (Trump suggested 45% against Chinese goods). It was all domestic, and fp only mattered in terms of economic issues.

Guest

I wonder what these American working class people will say when all their cheap plastic stuff that they buy at Walmart gets 45% more expensive …

Don’t these people realise that?

Even more OT:
I know quite a few Americans who drive Japanese cars – not only because they#re cheaper but also because they’re better designed and more reliable than US cars – but they at least don’t complain about those “lost jobs”.

You can’t have everything!

webber
Guest

Wolfi, just FYI Toyotas are manufactured in the United States, and have been for a very long time.

Guest

“Some” Toyotas are made there just as “some” Volkswagen cars …

But you know as well as I do that the volume of cars manufactured in the USA has been shrinking – at least relative to other countries.

And more and more “US” cars are manufactured in Mexico e g. – wages are so much lower there.

You have the same problem in Europe – Volkswagen sells more cars in China now than in Germany and will probably soon produce more there too.
And many companies which manufacture in Hungary etc are thinking of moving away – many already did.

Rather OT – or not (?) from the Guardian re production in the UK:

The chancellor added: “In the real world, it takes a German worker four days to produce what we make in five; which means, in turn, that too many British workers work longer hours for lower pay than their counterparts.”
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/nov/23/brexit-will-blow-59bn-hole-in-public-finances-admits-hammond

webber
Guest
Media bias – oddly, I can’t remember the media riding the issue of Trump’s ongoing legal troubles. He has just settled the fraud case against him personally because of Trump University by agreeing to pay plaintiffs $25 m. out of court. His personal Foundation (did you know it existed, Petofi?) has just admitted to the IRS that it violated federal tax regulations by, effectively, spending money donated for charity on Trump’s products and Trump’s campaign. Did you hear about that? No. All we heard was about Clinton’s emails (found innocent, twice), and about Clinton’s foundation (also, no charges). Clinton was found innocent of all charges, but the FBI certainly did hit her with the announcement of the second investigation at a critical time before the election. Trump has two guilty pleas now – one settled out of court, the other facing the IRS. Did we hear about that? No. We also hear that Clinton was super rich. Aha… Trump’s personal wealth is estimated at $4 bn., and the SOB admitted he stiffed his university students and that his NGO embezzled funding to his benefit, but the right spends time screaming about Clinton’s corruption. So, where was the media bias, I… Read more »
petofi
Guest

@ webber

Let’s be a tad realistic: post election, the media will not be attacking Trump for his atrocious ‘university’. Let’s remember that the publishers and CEOs of media establishment know well the power a president wields, and nobody wants the IRS all over themselves like flies over sh..

But Hillary really was too precious–“I know the cares of the ordinary American…” Yeah, right. Making $400,000 for a 1/2 speech really prepares one to sympathize with the plebeians.

In the case of Trump, I’m reduced to hoping for a St. Augustine-type conversion.

webber
Guest

Well, Petofi, it seems you found religion…
Waiting for a miracle on Madison Avenue?

true 1956
Guest

we may all benefit from taking some lesson from Gyula Bognar Jr.
He is right. Clintons and Obamas were just one-dimensional actors.
When have they become detached from real life.

Istvan
Guest
Since the discussion has gone far from swimming, I will go equally off topic. At this point in time the reasons for Mr. Trump’s election are academic, he will be President of the United States very shortly and commander and chief of our armed forces. But I did read today in Magyar Nemzet that Hungary has delivered 240 tons of ammunition to the Iraqi army. The ammunition is apparently produced by RUAG Hungarian Ammotec Inc of Sirok. Each 7.62×39 bullet for an AK 47 weighs about 123 gr, so Hungary would have shipped to the Iraqi Army an amount equal to about 1.9 million bullets for their frequently used AK 47s. While that might seem like a lot, its really nothing. In the course of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: the United States has fired an estimated average of 250,000 rifle rounds for every insurgent killed. Based on that estimate all of the ammunition being sent by Hungary to Iraq will likely kill about 8 jihadi. The ammunition consumption report comes from the US General Accounting Office, it is mind blogging actually. According to the data I have seen during the Vietnam war the American troops required roughly 50,000… Read more »
webber
Guest

Mindboggling?
Not so long ago the Senate report found outrageous corruption in the Bush era among Army suppliers in Iraq the form of over-billing, over-charging, and over-estimating supplies used. Looks like nothing has changed.

Istvan
Guest
Webber I was one of the officers that oversaw much of the math on small arms ammunition consumption by the US Army for years. I am pretty sure the GAO gets their data from US Army analysts located at Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois. All of that ammunition used by US forces is produced by publicly owned factories under the control of the Joint Munitions Command. It’s not a scam, in general these estimates are pretty accurate and astounding in terms of consumption. The US is using foreign manufacturers, like Hungary and the Czech Republic (Sellier & Bellot JSC) to supply its allies in the fight with the Islamic State because our military producers generally don’t produce bullets for the AKs and our production rates were operating at capacity for several years. In World War II using data from the USA, Germany, and Japan in a paper published by the US Army War College it was estimated it took on average 25,000 bullets per kill one opposing combatant. It is the increased automation and fire capacity of weapons that is the driven of consumption of small arms ammunition including modern concepts like suppressive fire. Suppressive fire is a tactic to… Read more »
Istvan
Guest

This article discussed where IS gets it bullets from, the bulk from Russia and China. But some taken from seizures of Iraqi Army stockpiles actually made in the USA.

Istvan
Guest
webber
Guest

Fine, but the fact remains that the Senate report found massive embezzlement and fraud on the part of suppliers.

petofi
Guest

Let’s remember that famous saw–and I forget who said it–that ‘the business of government is business’…

petofi
Guest

@ Istvan

re: “It’s not a scam..”

Now, Istvan-bacsi, you’re not suggesting that the military-industrial complex does not exist, are you? Or why would one your most famous Generals warn us of the m-i c just prior to leaving the presidential office?

Istvan
Guest

No just that we use a hell of a lot of bullets.

petofi
Guest

What kind of sniper would use 25,000 bullets?

Istvan
Guest

It’s not likely that a Seal sniper would use that many bullets inclusive of practice per kill. But a trooper using in WWII a Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) threw out massive numbers of rounds.

The BAR was designed to be carried by infantrymen during an assault or advance while supported by the sling over the shoulder or fired from the hip. This is a concept called “walking fire.” In today’s US Army we have M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW). The M249 is gas operated and air-cooled. It has a quick-change barrel, allowing the gunner to rapidly replace an overheated or jammed barrel. A folding bipod is attached near the front of the gun. It can fire 800 round per minute.

Ultimately its suppression fire that eats up massive ammunition. The modern Hungarian Army uses the Belgian FN Minimi, a light machine gun manufactured by the Belgian company FN Herstal (FN). That rifle is fully capable of cutting a human being in half.

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