For those two weeks in August, most of Hungary was fighting serious sleep deprivation, staying up to the wee hours of the morning to cheer our Olympic team and watching them once again outperform the competition. Winning 8 gold, 3 silver and 4 bronze medals, Hungary took to the podium for swimming, fencing, canoe sprint and track events and finished twelfth in the overall medal competition – not too shabby for a country of nine million inhabitants. Among the top ten medalists we have two Hungarian female veterans who defended their titles and won even more in Rio.
It was breathtaking watching Danuta Kozák, Gabriella Szabó, Krisztina Fazekas-Zur and Tamara Csipes paddling to victory. We were all on the edge of our seats as we watched the painstaking progress of fencers Áron Szilágyi, Emese Szász, Géza Imre, Gábor Boczkó, András Rédli and Péter Somlai. We cheered László Cseh, Boglárka Kapás and Tamás Kendersi to the end of the pool and were surprised by Anita Márton’s medal finish in the shot put. And of course we marveled at the mettle of the Iron Lady, Katinka Hosszú, as she stepped up to the podium four times.
It has become a tradition for Hungarians. When opening the House of Hungary, the first time in the history of the modern Olympics that we’ve had our own representational forum, President Áder recalled that Hungary ranks as the third most successful nation relative to its size and population in the history of the Games, winning a total of 168 gold, 148 silver and 170 bronze medals. With our House of Hungary, which served as a meeting spot, representative exhibition space and a TV studio, we are stepping up our game in yet another international competition.
Budapest stands among the four finalists in the bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. We are like a David against three Goliaths – Los Angeles, Paris and Rome – but as a sporting nation that has made a tradition of outperforming at the Games and a nation among the top ten all-time medal winners that has never before hosted the Olympics, we believe Budapest’s time has come. That alone, however, would not be enough.
Budapest’s Olympic bid fits into a larger strategy. Since 2010, Hungary has made sports and health a strategic priority. We’ve not only built new facilities, swim centers and stadiums but made them more accessible to everyone. We have introduced daily physical education in public schools, placed stricter limits on access to tobacco products (for which the World Health Organization recognized the prime minister with an award), introduced a new measure allowing businesses tax breaks for giving financial support to sports. It’s all part of our goal to cultivate a healthier nation.
We also believe that Hungary has the right combination of facilities, features, resources and security to host this prestigious event in 2024 or will have the other infrastructure in time and that this will all be part of the country’s sustainable economic development.
Hungarian athletes are known for their competitive spirit and sportsmanship. That was certainly the case with our 154 athletes in Rio de Janeiro who qualified in 21 sports and competed with honor and grit in 122 events. The whole nation cheered them with pride, and now we have another cause. As we welcome home our athletes, we continue to cheer for the 155th competitor: for Budapest to be selected to host the 2024 Games.