President Novák opens World Athletics Championships and celebrates August 20 holiday

The president thanked Hungarians for “looking forward, working through hard times … and having faith in a Hungarian life.”

President Katalin Novák said Saint Stephen, Hungary's first king, is "a common denominator for all Hungarians".
Speaking in Esztergom, north of Budapest, marking the August 20 national holiday, the president said “St. Stephen has become an integral part of each of us; he is with us”. Stephen I “laid the foundations for a Christian Hungary and made the country a part of the Western world,” she said, adding that at the same time, the sainted king “inevitably earned a place in our life, too”. On August 20, Hungarians pay tribute to Saint Stephen “for his courage, faith, wisdom, and humbleness … he is inside, while he is above us, he is behind, while he is in front of us,” Novák said. She said August 20 was “neither a dusty tradition nor a modern-time party but a holiday … reminding us of our past and giving us renewed hope for the future each year.” On this day we “forget about the negligible and focus on what is really important,” she said. The president noted the hardships of the present, but said “it creates a better spirit if we know that the worst part is over, and there are prospects of a better tomorrow”. She thanked Hungarians for “looking forward, working through hard times … and having faith in a Hungarian life.”

“A nation needs heroes … examples to be followed, with whom we speak the same language, share a history, people who are like us, still better than we are,” President Katalin Novák said at a ceremony marking Hungary’s August 20 national holiday on Sunday. At the ceremony, the president handed over the Saint Stephen Order of Hungary to biologist Katalin Karikó and three-times Olympic Champion fencer Áron Szilágyi, and the Legion of Honour of Hungary to Franciscan friar Csaba Böjte. In her laudation, the president said all three awardees held their Hungarian identity in high esteem, they were working for their communities, “considering their work as service”. “All three of them are compassionate, they share a commitment to the family, and they also share the principle of one for all,” Novák said. Referring to Karikó, the president highlighted her outstanding scientific career “promoting Hungary and Hungarian science all over the world” with special regard to “several decades of perseverance in medical research”. Szilágyi has been recognised for his exceptional sports career and for supporting young talents, as well as “being an example of sportsmanship and consistency”, Novák said. Concerning Böjte, the president praised his humanitarian activities through founding and operating an orphanage for Romania’s needy children, and “serving the cause of the spiritual reinforcement of the Hungarian nation through the commitment of the youngest brother”.

In other news, President Katalin Novák said in her address at the opening ceremony of the World Athletics Championships in Budapest on Saturday that in the shadow of the war in Ukraine, “the role of sports as a peace-promoting force is appreciated”. “Through sport, we can also experience what it feels like to engage in a noble and fair fight with each other,” the president said. “And it is a good idea to compete in the same way, on the basis of mutual respect, also in other aspects of our lives,” she added. “The World Athletics Championships are primarily about outstanding athletic performance,” Novák said. “But for us, Hungarians, they mean more than that. We celebrate elite sport and casual sport — as a casual sport is the foundation for a healthy lifestyle — both at the same time”.

“We need sports and sports competitions in good, as well as in more difficult times. Because such an event lifts you up, and moves you away from daily problems,” she said. Novák thanked President Sebastian Coe and World Athletics for their vote of confidence. “I promise we will be worthy of it,” she said. “Why Budapest?” Novák posed the question. “Because we Hungarians have been standing guard here in the heart of Europe for a thousand years. In fact, we will celebrate the Day of St. Stephen, our founding king, tomorrow, thanks to whom Hungary embarked on the path of Western Christianity,” she said. “Because we guarantee high competition standards and a safe environment for participants and visitors of the World Championships. Because in addition to Budapest being on the world’s culture and tourism map, our country has hosted over forty European and World Championships and international sporting finals in the last ten years,” Novák said. “Because we want always to go above and beyond. We fulfil the tasks of hosting with heartfelt enthusiasm, and with the creativity Hungarians are known for, relying on a broad social cooperation that we have successfully achieved,” the president said.

President Novák thanked all those who put in place the conditions and provided the support necessary for the World Championships. “It is commendable when we can show unity,” she said. “And as we have a reputation for being exceptional hosts, we would like you to have an enjoyable time in our country. We would like the athletes to give the best performance of their lives. And beyond the sporting experience, we hope our guests will get a taste of our national culture, our beautiful capital, the kind and open nature of the Hungarian people, and our world-famous cuisine! To make sure that you will have a good time with us, we will show you the best we can be, and become who we ourselves would like to be,” the president added. She noted that the Hungarian capital “will be in the spotlight for nine days”. “Two hundred participating countries, thousands of athletes, tens of thousands of foreign spectators, hundreds of thousands of fans on-site and millions in front of their screens,” she said. “Because we Hungarians love challenges, and seek out and take advantage of opportunities,” she added.