Thousands of athletes, a record-breaking fast-track preparation for the international event, and the most picturesque diving background ever. The 2017 FINA World Aquatics Championships, Hungary’s largest sporting event to date, will overtake the cities of Budapest and Balatonfüred for over two weeks. As a nation with exceptional watersports traditions and accomplishments, Hungarians can barely wait, although it is not just our athletes who are setting the bar high.
In 2015, Guadalajara, Mexico stepped down as the host city for this year’s championships, and when Hungary stepped up, many had doubts we would be able to take on such a large sporting event by mid-July 2017. But Hungary didn’t disappoint and has put everything swiftly on track. That means the first world record has already been broken at FINA 2017 -- the race to get ready for FINA -- and the events have yet to begin.
Beginning this Friday, sports fans worldwide will focus their attention on Budapest and Balatonfüred for the World Aquatics Championships kickoff. The championships will bring almost 3,000 athletes in six different disciplines, competing in 75 events over a period of 17 days to Hungary.
This is a genuine opportunity for Budapest, Balatonfüred (a city on the northern shore of Lake Balaton), and the nation of Hungary to shine. As the construction comes to a close, the final touches are being applied.
Budapest’s brand-new Danube Arena, a place for swimmers and divers to battle for the gold, will serve as one of the major arenas. With two Olympic-sized swimming pools and a maximum capacity of more than 15,000 spectators, the facility, just like the athletes, is world-class.
Water polo teams will return to Margaret Island’s Hajós Alfréd Swimming Complex – named after the legendary Hungarian swimmer and our first Olympic Champion – to compete for the world title. The complex – often referred to as the Mecca of water polo – can accommodate up to 7,000 fans and it is likely to be packed every evening. In its hall, the names of former Hungarian world and Olympic champions are engraved in marble – a list that we hope will grow during this year’s championships.
High diving will take place on the Danube banks at Batthyány Square, right across from the astonishing Parliament building, while Balatonfüred will host the open water swimming contests. Synchronized swimmers will perform in a temporary pool in the middle of Pest’s stunning City Park.
These architectural developments fit into a broader government strategy for a healthier nation. Hosting such a gigantic event does not only put both Budapest and Balatonfüred in the spotlight, but also creates an important moment to promote sports and physical fitness to the public. That’s been a priority in the government’s program since elected to office in 2010. The Hungarian government has passed legislation to ensure that there are daily physical education classes in schools and has largely expanded funding for domestic sports infrastructure investments. It’s all part of improving national health.
FINA organizers have pledged to launch the opening of the World Aquatics Championships with the most spectacular show ever seen in Hungary. Head organizer of the opening ceremony, Csaba Káel, recently shared some numbers: 510 artists, 3,000 square meters of stage, and four ships that are 1,600 tons each. The grandiose event will feature internationally acclaimed Hungarian artists such as Péter Eötvös, Ágnes Herczku, and Gergely Bogányi. CeeLo Green will star in the event.
Friday is just around the corner, and you can feel the excitement building.