We have every right to be proud. Budapest’s brand-new, state-of-the-art swimming facilities, including the most picturesque high diving background in the history of the championships, were tested by almost 3,000 athletes in six disciplines, competing in 75 events over 17 days in July. “Budapest is an undiscovered new continent, a miracle itself,” an African FINA leader noted, in awe of the Hungarian capital’s facilities, which were built or renovated especially for these championships, the biggest-ever sports event in Hungary.
First of all, we must thank our athletes for the remarkable memories. More than 100 Hungarian athletes took part in the championships, and for the first time Hungary was represented in all disciplines. We finished with two gold, five silver, and two bronze medals, putting Hungary in ninth place on the medal board. Katinka Hosszú added to our aquatic sports hall of fame by bringing home two golds, one silver, and one bronze. Our national water polo team, as well as swimmers Dávid Verrasztó,, Kristóf Milák, and László Cseh won silvers. A surprise quartet, Péter Holoda, Nándor Németh, Dominik Kozma, and Richárd Bohus, won a bronze in the men’s 4x100 meter freestyle relay. Although world championships directly following the Olympics don’t usually bring record results, eleven world records were broken in different swimming disciplines during FINA Budapest 2017.
In these FINA championships, though, Hungary’s victories were not only of the athletic kind.
We started off by breaking the record for preparations. Jumping in for Guadalajara, Mexico, which decided in 2015 to pull out of hosting FINA 2017, Hungary completed planning and construction in only two years, instead of the traditional six years allocated for such a project. The new Dagály Swimming Complex and the cutting-edge design Danube Arena, “the world’s best and fastest swimming pool,” as Government Commissioner Balázs Fürjes called it, were completed in less than two years. The Danube Arena, complete with two Olympic-sized swimming pools and a maximum capacity of more than 15,000 spectators, won international recognition: According to FINA Executive Director Cornel Marculescu, even the Olympics are rarely held in such an impressive facility.
Athletes, coaches, journalists, and observers were equally impressed. "It is a pity Budapest dropped out of the race for the 2024 Summer Olympics," wrote leading sports analyst Alan Abrahamson, based on Hungary’s performance as host of this year’s world championships. The sportswriter, who has covered the Olympic scene for 20 years, said that this year’s opening ceremony along the Danube River was the best he has witnessed with the exception of the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.
“First of all, well done, Hungary,” the Australian national swim team coach Jacco Verhaeren said at an opening news conference. US swimmer Matt Grevers reaction was, “Hungary has blown me away.” “The pool is wonderful. It surely is,” said Hungarian-born, Italian diver Noemi Batki. “Probably the most amazing one I have ever seen…This is one of the best pools I’ve ever swum in, amazing place, one we will never forget,” said American Kanako Spendlove.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán received FINA’s highest-ranking award for Hungary’s hosting of the championships. According to President Maglione, this prize is also PM Orbán’s “personal achievement,” but the prime minister said, he knows very well that this prestigious award has been presented to the people of Hungary, and is happy to accept it in their name. When the country needed to make a decision regarding whether or not to host the championships, it was a rare moment of consensus among all political parties and the Hungarian public – all were in favor of organizing the event despite the time crunch.
The Hungarian athletes’ outstanding performance has united us all as a nation, no doubt. But this time we have even more reason to celebrate because as a host nation, Hungary lived up to the reputation of our athletes. The aquatic sports nation stepped up its game. Thanks, FINA, for the opportunity.