Hungary is awaiting the biggest sporting event of its history. The 17th FINA World Championships is not only outstanding from a sports industry perspective, it also creates vast opportunities for Budapest (and Balatonfüred) in terms of worldwide popularity, and raises significant income due to the tens of thousands of visitors. The following period of 200 days will be very extremely intense for the Organising Committee, all involved stakeholders and the participating athletes, too. On this festive occasion and milestone, let’s take a look where preparations stand.
Before turning to personal and professional thoughts, there are a few facts to highlight. The brand new, main competition venue of the 17th FINA World Championships, the Dagály Aquatics Complex is almost ready: ‘Only 5 percent of the construction is left to complete, therefore we have the opportunity to finish every single little detail on time’- stated Sándor Scheer, the CEO of Market Zrt, the company responsible for the construction.
Early bird ticket sales kicked off on December 1, anyone can purchase them through the Event’s website, or on http://www.eventim.hu. There is already huge public interest for the World Championships, 30 000 tickets were sold in less than a month during the first release. The second round of tickets will be opened for sale in early 2017.
And now, let’s turn to the people playing one of the most important role in this aquatics success story, coaches and leaders of the different disciplines:
András Hargitay, currently head coach of the Hungarian national swim team, won the very first World Championships gold medal for the country in Belgrade in 1973, over 400m indvidual medley. Naturally, this great moment in his career is still memorable, even 200 days before the 17th World Championships:
‘That moment seems miraculous and unforgettable, till this day. My coach – Tamás Széchy – was asked just before the race about the outcome. He simply declared most calmly that nothing special will happen, just the first World Championships gold medal of Hungary will be won. Hardly anyone believed him then. And then – as I was told – Tamás even left the pool over the last 100 meters. Upon our return home, the arrival side of the railway station was filled with fans waiting for us and the men’s water polo team who also stood on the top of the podium in Belgrade. I was so young then at the age of 17 that I didn’t really grasp the true meaning of all this, - not even mentioning that I could have well won another gold in the 200m IM race as well, only 0.06 seconds separated the first six finishers, I came in sixth. The triumph of the 400m carried me away, I still have inexplicable feelings towards that gold until this very day.
The country would have turned upside down if that year Hungary hosted the World Championships. Later, in 1976 the nationals were held here in March, before the Montreal Olympics. Zoltán Verrasztó triumphed in the 200m freestyle final, I finished second, while Csaba Sós grabbed the bronze. The stands were totally packed. It would have been a miracle to swim at a World Championships in front of home crowds, even though we must say that back then we did not have such world-class venues in Hungary as we do now.
Nowadays, I am constantly amazed by the speed and efficiency with which the new Dagály Aquatics Complex is being built. It is so incredibly beautiful, like a crystal palace! It is a huge thing for Hungary to be able to host the FINA World Championships, winning in front of home crowds will be a miracle for each swimmer. As athletes, we always had a motto: you will never get anywhere if you don’t trust yourself! The successful construction of the new venue and Hungary hosting the greatest international aquatic stars are simply out of this world great. I trust the power of Hungarian sports, passionate and hard work, the faith, dedication and knowledge of our coaches. Our swimmers can prepare in the best conditions, the competition moment will decide who can gain extra inspiration by this unique opportunity.
The World Championships in a year after the Olympics is always an important milestone. For Hungary, these Championships may also mean the farewell to a great swimmer generation, or on the contrary, it can serve as motivation and inspiration to carry on, while for the next, young generation it will be an extraordinary experience and chance. And the crowds and spectators will gather unforgettable memories for sure.’
Gábor Gellért, head coach of the Hungarian national open water swim team believes that amazing races will take place in Lake Balaton at Balatonfüred, the open water co-host city of the 17th FINA World Championships
‘There is a high chance that the dearly anticipated crowds will be able to applaud home successes at the 17th FINA World Championships’ open water events in the city of Balatonfüred. Team Hungary currently consists of a number of talented swimmers who can qualify for the World Championships, such as Kristóf Rasovszky, Márk Papp, or Dániel Székelyi, and Gergely Gyurta in the team events – we will have to see the exact team composition later – even a younger swimmer can surprise us until. Among the women, our two most successful swimmers are definitely Éva Risztov and Anna Olasz but also Adél Juhász, Janka Juhász, or Nikoletta Kiss are achieving better and better results, while we can count on Adél Farkas, Kata Sömenek Onon and Nikolett Szilágyi, too. Concerning the international field, I expect American, Brazilian, Dutch, French and Italian swimmers fighting for the podium places – but as we know, anything can happen at a World Championships, great surprises can easily happen. We will know it all in just 200 days!’
Katalin Haász, the chairwoman of the Hungarian Diving Federation’s technical committee expects a real jamboree, and highlighted that the discipline of diving will not at all be sidelined in Budapest in July 2017:
‘Diving is becoming more and more popular, so during the 9 days of competition Budapest will be in the center of attention, while high diving will be the perfect closing event of the diving competitions, with one of the most beautiful panoramas of Budapest in the background. Diving has great tradition in several countries of the world; it was the fourth most watched sport at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. The international field is getting more and more colorful: besides the Asian countries, Russia, Canada, Italy and Germany must be watched in diving events, and even the USA can surprise the world in the high diving discipline. The Hungarian athletes (seven of them currently), whose goal is to perform as well as they can in front of home crowds, have already started the preparation for the World Championships this week. The synchronised pairs are going to be selected from them, so each athlete is preparing for more than one event. Everybody knows that divers in Budapest have been lacking some facilities in the recent years, however, this November saw the opening of the new ‘Bubble’, where indoor training is facilitated. The venues of the World Championships have easily approachable locations, so the participating athletes can attend the other discipline’s events and cheer for their compatriots. Nowadays, Budapest is one of the most attractive capitals in the world and its historical, touristic and cultural life is going to be sparkling during the 17th FINA World Championships as well.'
Natalia Tarasova, the head coach of the Hungarian national synchronised swimming team, two-time junior world champion and four-time European champion hopes that the local athletes will give it all to compete in front of home crowds
‘The FINA World Championships hosted in Hungary is a huge motivation for the nation’s synchronised swimmers. The team has sixteen members now, but not everyone will make it to the final team. I really like the girls’ attitude and it is good to see that we can fight for bigger goals and we get more and more positive feedback, so out results can be better, too. Of course, it is a slow process, we need to be patient. I trust that we can reach the finals in duo and in team, but the international field is very strong. Russia, China and Japan are the favourites, but in my opinion, Ukraine also has a chance to reach podium. The competitions will be held in a wonderful place in the City Park (Városliget), the event will be an unforgettable experience for the athletes and fans in this atmosphere.'
Krisztián Cseh, the acting General Secretary of the Hungarian Synchronised Swimming Federation highlighted that the extraordinary venues of the World Championships will make the synchro events truly unique in Budapest:
‘It is such an honour to have one of Budapest’s most salient point of tourism and history as a meeting point for the best international athletes once again, having already hosted the European Championships in Hungary on multiple occasions. Even though it is still 200 days away, we have already gotten feedbacks regarding our World Championships. I think that the work of the Organising Committee will even excel the standards of the two Hungarian-organised European Championships that amazed the whole world already back then. The venue in Budapest shall be the very first in synchronised swimming showing off the discipline’s spectacle with the surroundings of historic monuments and sights in the City Park (Városliget). The view at the Vajdahunyad Castle will be magical and we are looking forward to be there already and of course we are doing everything in our power to make this event the best and spread its news all over the world by word of mouth. The Hungarian synchronised swimming lived through a great generational change and in my opinion, having the Russian Natalia Tasasova as national head coach is as a vast achievement. The Russians have the same level of knowledge in synchronised swimming as the Brazilians have in football and it truly makes a big difference poolside. A highly systematic work has started last year with Natalia which resulted that our girls have started getting better points at the international competitions and collected good feedbacks on their performances. We are expecting Hungarian athletes to compete in every discipline and we are hoping to have some of them at the finals, which would be an astonishing performance in synchro. It is expected to have more than 30 countries competing at the 17th FINA World Championships in our discipline, if we could, we would fast forward the clock with 200 days already.’
Balázs Nemcsik, the Managing Director of the Hungarian Water Polo Federation said that the World Championships will be the next step in a ten-year-long, traditional series.
‘Almost one hundred years of tradition will be continued with the 2017 FINA Aquatics World Championships, so we must live up to the high-set standards. The first swimming, diving and water polo European Championships were organised in 1926 at the Császár Swimming pool, with Hungary setting off a long line of the European continental tournaments. In 1958, Hungary once again hosted the European Championships, then later in 2001 we organised thewater polo continental tournament already independently at the Hajós Alfréd Sport Complex. The very same happened in 2014, while the Europe’s best swimmers, synchro swimmers and divers competed at the same legendary venue on the Margaret Island in 2006 and in 2010.
We must bring competitions to Hungary, the results make us obliged to do so and of course the fans are hungry to cheer on our national athletes. The grandstands are usually full most and the atmosphere is always fantastic: this is our goal, to make the best and the highest quality event for the fans and the competitors. We are glad to provide home for more and more international competitions with spectator experience and entertainment at its core; it has been driving us and our partners already long before the FINA World Championships. I cannot forget the Hungarian water polo teams: the success of any international Championships is strongly related to the performance of our home squads - we hope that they will not break the tradition of winning at least one medal at every European Championships hosted by Hungary. Of course, these will be first World Championships in the history of Hungary, and its significance gives a great zest to the teams and the Organising Committee to do their very best.’
Tamás Märcz, the freshly appointed head coach of the Hungarian men’s water polo team will be responsible to make that much-desired medal happen in July 2017:
‘It is frightening to see the number 200 and the closeness of the World Championships in front of us. It is important to take advantage fairly of a home event, I should focus on exploiting every possible opportunity coming in our way in the next few months the most useful way. By these opportunities, I mean we are planning to have at least four or five national team meetings and cohesion until May. The greater part of the work will start then from June 1, when we will have five or six weeks of preparation. As we are the hosts, I am sure that this event will be unforgettable. I can say this with great certainty that my team does not know impossible and they will be there with their best game and efforts to win. My aim is to prepare the Hungarian team to perform at their greatest power, from now I have 200 days for this. I hope the fans will once again stand right behind us just as they always do!’