Welcome address by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at a reception celebrating the World Athletics Championships

26 August 2023 Budapest

Good morning to Everybody.

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, our Distinguished Guests,

Allow me to on behalf of the Hungarian people, specially greet Mrs. Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, the former president of Croatia, friend of Hungary and a member of the International Olympic Committee, Mr. Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, Mr. Sebastian Coe, the president of the World Athletics, and Mr. Juan Antonio Samaranch, the vice president of the International Olympic Committee. It is always an honor to have you here in Hungary. And if you, Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me, I’m going to switch to Hungarian now. Because just like in cooking, it is always best to season with a little local flavor. So please enjoy the wonderful Hungarian language!

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Guests,

Those who are here for the first time may be surprised when they see how crazy Hungarians are about sport, while those who have been here before may not be surprised. The Hungarians are excited by sport, it stirs them up, it almost drives them crazy. Where does this come from? When the first modern Olympics were held, we won our first Olympic gold medal in swimming, and a famous Hungarian architect called Alfred Hajós was our champion. When he was presented with the gold medal, the anthem which the orchestra started to play – this was in 1896 – was naturally that of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. After a few bars, the Hungarians who were present drowned out the music and the melody. The orchestra immediately gave up, as the Hungarians rose to their feet and continued singing the real Hungarian anthem. The latter is a prayer. This is where it all comes from. This explains everything. This was a marriage made in heaven that bound together the Hungarian nation and sport. An eternal alliance was born between the Hungarian nation and sport. It is a union that has not been shaken by time and, as in marriage, it is “Until death do us part.” The Hungarian nation and sport go hand in hand.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Those of you who have been here in Budapest in recent days have been able to experience all of this in person, and have seen what the real Hungary is like: ancient and modern, national and open. You have seen what Hungarians are really like on their better days: passionate and respectful, their respect and love for sport and sporting heroes overriding almost everything.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are a people, a martial people, who believe – and have always believed – in valour. Valour is something important. We love those who give their all; and indeed we love even more those who give more than they are normally capable of. But for us valour has never been associated with conquest. So valour does not mean conquering others or taking other people’s possessions. The Hungarian prefers the kind of achievement that is not at the expense of someone else, but that is carried out for the glory of a larger community. And this is exactly what sport is about. So sport is well suited to the Hungarian psyche. Or, to put it more simply, sport is well suited to Hungarians. This explains, Ladies and Gentlemen, the number of excellent sporting events that we have hosted. We have hosted the World Aquatics Championships, the European Championships in water polo and swimming, the World Fencing Championships, the World Judo Championships, the European Handball Championship and the European Football Championship. The Giro d’Italia has started from here, there has been a Europa League football final here, and we hope that there will be a Champions League final. Indeed Budapest is the meeting point of the sports-loving world. When we add up this long list, Mr. Bach, we get the impression that we have already staged an Olympics. And in fact we have – but in several pieces rather than all at once. But in essence we have staged everything. And this is not at all surprising, because if you look at the Olympic all-time rankings, you see that in the overall medals table for the Summer Olympics, Hungary – and we are talking about a country of ten million – is in eighth place! Below us there are larger and more populous nations. And all this, Ladies and Gentlemen, while being the only one of the top ten countries in the medals table not to have hosted an Olympic Games. I hardly think that this will remain so until the end of time.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,

President Coe mentioned how long we have known each other, and I have a similarly long-standing acquaintance with President Bach. We usually agree on the most important issues, but there is almost nothing we agree on as strongly as we do on peace: on the notion that peace is needed. I remember – perhaps in the winter of 2022, at the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics – hearing the President say, “Give peace a chance.” And indeed, sport does not divide nations, but brings them together. I deeply believe that sport can bridge geopolitical divides and transcend economic discord. And the best way we can promote peace, Ladies and Gentlemen, is to give space to fair and peaceful competition between nations. In fact the Hungarians dedicated these World Championships to peace, and in the weeks and months ahead I ask you sports leaders to continue to do all you can for peace. And finally, I thank the organisers for their outstanding performance in such demanding work. You have had a difficult few weeks, but seeing the success of the event, we can safely say that it was worth it. The knowledge and experience that our organisers have garnered here will certainly not go to waste, and I promise that there will be another occasion to apply it again in the future.

Dear Guests,

I wish you all every success. God bless you, and thank you for coming and bringing out the best in the Hungarian people!