The opening extravaganza of the Aquatic Championships didn’t capture the world’s imagination

The Aquatic World Championships, the largest ever sports event in Hungarian history, began with an expensive opening ceremony on Friday night. The cost of the event has preoccupied members of the Hungarian media. In the last few days journalists have been trying to figure out how much each minute of the two-hour program cost the taxpayers, and they came up with 28.3 million forints or $89,960.

As far as the Hungarian government is concerned, every cent spent was worth it. After all, and now I am quoting the government’s very own Magyar Idők, “because thanks to the television coverage [the director] dazzled the world with a fantastic image of the country.” The justification for holding the event was that tourism would receive a boost that would compensate for the expenses incurred. But the real emphasis was always on image building. People would be overwhelmed by the cityscape over the Danube, the majestic parliament building, and the Royal Castle. The speed with which the organizers managed to put this great show together should also impress the world. Hungary is strong, proud, and competitive.

As far as Magyar Idők is concerned, everything turned out absolutely splendidly. The new Duna Aréna is “one of the largest and most beautiful swimming pools.” As for the opening ceremony, it was “dazzling” as it portrayed “the meeting of water and culture in Hungarian history.” The program generously began with the Roman city of Aquincum, today’s Óbuda. There were eight episodes, which included the Hungarians’ arrival, Renaissance Buda, hussars, the music of Ferenc Liszt and Zoltán Kodály, Hungarian operettas, pop culture, folk songs, and folk costumes. How much did foreigners understand from all that? I suspect not much. In addition, the American CeeLo Green sang “Bright Lights Bigger City” and “Crazy.”

As for the quality of the program, well, that depends on your artistic sensibilities and to some extent on your political views. Reporters from media outlets like Index and 444.hu were less than thrilled. But for the organizers the most important consideration was the impact of this extravaganza. After all, the chief aim of staging the championships was ostensibly to advertise Budapest and Hungary, and therefore they wanted millions of people to be exposed to the events in Budapest. The eyes of the world will be on Hungary, the organizers assured the population. They talked about 5 billion cumulative views.

But came the first day with the opening ceremony on which they spent so much money and the reaction was, how shall I say, less than what they expected. Hours after the event one couldn’t find anything on the internet about this proud moment, which was supposed to spread the good name of Hungary all over the world. No problem. In Viktor Orbán’s Hungary creating an alternative reality is an everyday occurrence.

Hungary’s official news agency, MTI, came up with the simplest solution. It created news showing the opening ceremony being widely covered in the international media. Let me quote the opening lines of its news item. “On Saturday the international media first and foremost concentrated on the opening ceremony of the Aquatic World Championships in Budapest. The objective articles are richly illustrated with photographs, highlighting the most important moments of the ceremony.“ But MTI failed to mention any of those publications that carried the richly illustrated articles. Therefore, suspicious Hungarian reporters who are only too aware of MTI’s habit of falsifying the news tried to verify the MTI report. The blogger of Comment:com checked both Google and Bing and found only one article, in Euronews.com. Here is what it had to say about the opening ceremony: “Crowds in Budapest witnessed spectacular scenes at the opening ceremony of the World Aquatic Championships, the biggest sporting event ever staged in Hungary…. Euronews correspondent Ferenc Horvath noted that the cost of producing the opening extravaganza may break records.” Period.

In addition, this morning a short, somewhat sarcastic little news item appeared in Politico’s “Brussels Playbook”–“Budapest’s Latest Soft Power Play.” It did mention the “flashy opening ceremony,” but the article was really about “the most powerful woman in Hungary,” Katinka Hosszú, who is “a multi-millionaire triple Olympic gold medalist who is using her political skills to form a global professional swimmers union. Watch out, Viktor!” It was from this meager amount of material that MTI created an event reported widely and enthusiastically as a “spectacular and dazzling” performance.

As far as TV coverage of the championship events over the next two weeks is concerned, although sports fans in Great Britain and Canada will be able to follow at least some of the events on BBC and CBC, I fear that not too many Americans will be able to watch them. They will be aired on a brand new sports channel, NBC Olympic Channel, which was launched just today. Thus, for example, the opening ceremony will not be broadcast. It will be a very narrowly focused channel. The programming will be done by NBCUniversal, the International Olympic Committee, and the U.S. Olympic Committee. The Olympic Channel will be available via some of the large cable providers such as A&T DirecTV, Comcast, and Verizon. But the viewership of programming on a brand new channel will most likely be minuscule.

All in all, the dreams about the fantastic impact the championships will have on Hungary’s image were, I’m afraid, way overblown.

July 15, 2017
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dos929
Guest
Let me quote: “Bread and circuses” (or bread and games; from Latin: panem et circenses) is metonymic for a superficial means of appeasement. In the case of politics, the phrase is used to describe the generation of public approval, not through exemplary or excellent public service or public policy, but through diversion; distraction; or the mere satisfaction of the immediate, shallow requirements of a populace, as an offered “palliative”. In the case of Orban’s Hungary there are plenty of circuses, but for many there is very little bread. The megalomania of Orban results in the useless and wasteful expenditure on projects that clearly serve the interest only the ruling elite is typical of tyrants and tyrannies. The showcase projects won’t substitute for the dilapidated infrastructure of the country or Budapest, nor they will make the standard of living of the Hungarian people any better; just the opposite. The funds provided by the taxes and the EU are squandered and on the way of realising those show-piece projects wast percentage of it finds its way to the pockets of the FIDESZ and the government officials and of course enriching Orban’s personal fortune. No amount of official praise and brouhaha can hide… Read more »
Guest
Thank you Éva. “Flashy” is a good way to describe most of Viktor’s extravaganzas. I would also add the English word for anything which is expensive but in bad taste – “bling”. The Fidesz mafia, just as the original gangs of Chicago, cannot distinguish between cost and quality, and this poor taste for glitz is in evidece all over the country. I was on Margaret island a few days ago, and saw the renovated musical fountain for the first time in years. The fountain looks fine and is surrounded by nice benches, but we were unable to stay and enjoy it thanks to the incredibly loud cheap pop music from the many speakers around the fountain. Even children wanted to get away as quickly as possible. The central fountain in the Tuileries in Paris has no pretentious gimmicks or trashy stuff. Instead, it provides humble deck chairs where Parisians can sit and enjoy their quiet surroundigs – ie. nature in the midst of a city. But thanks to Orbán both the locals and tourists can now gaze for about 10 seconds at our “musical” fountain and skidaddle away as quick as possible. Orbán and gang are simply unable to distinguish… Read more »
Member

I agree about the Margaret fountain. I find it really hard now, to find a single quiet outdoor green space anywhere in Budapest.

It’s been funny, in a sad way, to watch the Margaret Island total facelift. Knowing millions have been spent in order to look good on TV for 2 weeks for the Swimming championships when the hospitals and public transport are dangerous places to be. Also watching Hungarian builders actually working, during the countdown to the opening. The closer it got, the more people they threw at it. Hundreds in the end, mainly Roma, all being shouted at. A total renovation and extension of the Holdudvar building, plus new cheap eats and toilets, and they still missed the deadline.

Fidesz seems to think Budapest parks are real estate opportunities. The only quiet green places left in the city now are bits of wasteland, that you share with loads of homeless people.

Ferenc
Guest

Re: “the television coverage [of the opening] dazzled the world” and “[acc.MTI] opening ceremony being widely covered in the international media”
Here in western Europe: NO coverage of NOR articles/items about the opening whatsoever!! So here people stay ‘undazzled’ and uninterested for HU extravaganza.

This morning Sport’s headlines about everything else (F1, tennis, bicycling, IOC, etc) except the Aqua WC; yesterday evening noticed only some results of the Championships in the media, that’s all folks.

Ferenc
Guest

Re: “one of the largest and most beautiful swimming pools.”
My conclusion: The ‘Uszo Monstrum’ is one of the TOO large swimming pools and about it’s esthetics opinions are quit divided, to say the least.

Ferenc
Guest

Re: the cost of it all.
Really curious if there is anywhere available reliable information about costs of previous Aquatic World Championships and therewith cost comparisons can be presented to the interested public…

wrfree
Guest

Well we know its ‘draga draga draga’ to hold. Magyarorszag I believe did a favor for the aquatics people in picking up the Games after Mexico bowed out after feeling they couldn’t afford playing games in the water. It has to be expected that VO got some concessions since they only had 2 years to prepare.

Anyway with all the gelt and ‘glory’ coming in the end of the Games will give the country an extraordinary opportunity to perhaps do two things. Build the finest university in all of Europe to be the beacon of modern civilization that the world should ascribe to. And two build a hospital that will be the envy of all health professionals in the world. For with ‘glory and grandeur’ comes a responsibility of contribution that all great countries step up to.

Bowen
Guest

I found some videos of the opening ceremony on YouTube (not exactly with many views so far). Budapest looks nice, as usual, but I can’t imagine many people wanting to sit through two hours of Roman soldiers marching around, tap-dancing hussars, speeches by Tarlos and Ader, and obscure American rappers (with some sound problems). I’m curious to know if any channels (other than Hungarian state TV) wanted to purchase the rights to broadcast this live.

Member

The beginning looks like that bizarre Unicum commercial.

Guest

Alex, you made my day!

Actually Unicum is one of the things I always have to bring to Germany, some people really like it and even swear that it’s healthy …

And our US visitors also just bought some for their friends back home.

petofi
Guest

Unicum is the vilest stuff in the world–really, it’s more like medicine than a good liqueur.

Guest

Petofi, you don’t have to say that three times to make it true! 🙂

I only drink a little shot of moonshine aka pálinka with my neighbour when he comes for a chat after work …

Sorry for the joke, but wordpress is doing strange things again – am I the only one who now gets new comments not only two but three or four times?

Member

I drink it because it feels so good when I stop.

Guest

Unicum works great when you had too much greasy Hungarian food and your stomach cannot take it anymore. It saved me more than once while spending time in Hungary. 😉

aida
Guest

Not healthy at all.

Guest

But it was invented by Dr Zwack, the Austrian Eemperor’s pysician!
Or are you telling me that he wanted to kill him? 😉

aida
Guest

Thanks Bowen, I have not seen such concentrated garbage for many decades. Try not to listen to the words. Those make the whole thing ten times worse.
Some one must have made a bomb from it.

Guest

I looked for German news on this event – not much success!

There’s report here on the “Un-importance” of swimming in sports – it will only be shown on special channels on German tv while soccer, tennis etc is usually on the main channels:
http://www.rp-online.de/sport/andere/schwimm-wm-2017-unruhe-im-wasser-aid-1.6945620
That report also tells about the efforts of Katinka Hosszú against the FINA bosses …

And then there was a preview in one local newspaper from Augsburg – sounded like the author was paid or at least had a nice holiday in Hungary …

wrfree
Guest

Surprised about that in Germany. I’d watch Federer too…..;-)…right now he’s running away with the final against Cilic.

Member

Budapesters will clearly benefit from the Aquatic World Championships. The development of the Danube river bank on the Pest side is impressive, especially the much-needed cycle path. Budapest will also get a new indoor swimming facility. The current ones (Hajos Alfred, Komjadi, etc.) are overcrowded.

People living outside Budapest should be angry that Fidesz is spending a bunch of money on nonessential improvements in the capital instead of health care. However, if the videkis watched Orban blow money on stadiums that are gathering dust in places like Mezokovesd and STILL voted overwhelmingly for Fidesz in 2014, then this won’t cause much of a stir, either.

The idea of using the Aquatic World Championships as a vehicle for image-building is simply silly. Does anyone except the most enthusiastic swimmers and divers even realize that these championships exist?

Observer
Guest

Tappanch

Some comparative cost stats/analyses?

Tappanch
Guest

thank you for missing me. The “varosh” of Ohrid is romantic. Is my assumption correct that “varosh” in south Slavic languages comes from the Hungarian varos ?

Observer
Guest

?!?
Been drinking?

tappanch
Guest

Not at all! (don’t even like alcohol) Wikipedia answered my question in the affirmative: the Turkish and South Slavic “varosh” words are from the Hungarian.

Observer
Guest

I though as stats whiz you’d have some figures on the costs.

BTW ” Varos” is not used in any Slav language except in Serbian but even there the principle word is “grad”.

Jean P.
Guest

“The program generously began with the Roman city of Aquincum…”

Oops, they forgot the Sumerians.

Member

The gay hussar slip jig was cool …

Ferenc
Guest

Breaking: be prepared this week for another opening ceremony!!comment image
Currently the specially built walk/bicicle bridge near the ‘Uszo Monstrum’ is currently still forbidden to use and seems to be almost ready for it’s official opening.
Some data:
*span: an enormous 10 mtr (over the ‘wild water’ of the Rakos stream)
*cost: 400 million HUF (ca.1.33 million EURO / 1.5 million USD)
*reason: beyond pointlessness

Special opening ceremony, possibly live on your screen, expected soon…

https://444.hu/2017/07/17/tilos-biciklizni-a-vizes-vb-re-epult-biciklihidon-aminek-egyebkent-sincs-semmi-ertelme
http://index.hu/belfold/budapest/2017/07/17/tilos_bringazni_a_vizes_vebere_epitett_kerekparhidon/

Observer
Guest

OMG!
This is surreal! Im afraid that many “projects” are pointless waste save for the stolen 30-50%.

Guest

A bit OT:
http://www.portfolio.hu/en/economy/sex_workers_in_budapest_banned_from_profession_by_police.33661.html
Just to show Bp in a certain image or what?
We know that during these big shows (like the Olympic games) of course the sex business flourishes but not in Hungary!

Even more OT:
Reminds me of the biggest number of sex workers comring together ever – for the Catholic Church’s Concilium in Konstanz 500 years ago …

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