Distinguished Olympians, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I warmly welcome our Olympian and Paralympian medallists, their parents, teachers and everyone without whose efforts your success would not have happened. A special welcome to the legends of Hungarian sport who are gracing this event to celebrate together with you. Welcome also to the directors of the Hungarian Olympic Committee, the Hungarian Paralympic Committee and the various sports associations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A total of 201 Hungarian athletes qualified to take part in the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics in Rio. All of them deserve our congratulations. We all know that, for competitors, what happens at the Olympics is only the final stretch along a path leading to the summit – albeit the steepest section, where one can hardly catch one’s breath. Nobody qualifies for the Olympics by accident: it takes years – and sometimes decades – of work for an athlete to get just one such chance. This means that now, when we tip our hats to every competitor who qualified for the Olympics or Paralympics – regardless of the position they finished in – we see before us an entire sporting career: the seemingly endless training sessions; the long string of competitions; the sweat, the tears, the injuries; and the recoveries which follow each and every failure. We see everything that doesn’t take place in front of the fans, but behind the scenes in another, more private world – in a world which is not about success, but about work done to achieve success.
Just getting the chance to qualify is a huge achievement in itself. And not everyone is able to take advantage of the chance they have acquired. Some exhaust themselves at just the wrong time, and there are others whose health or mentality isn’t ready at the given moment; there are others still for whom conditions adversely affect their form, and there are some who are simply unlucky. We are talking about tenths and hundredths of a second – or possibly an arguable decision by the judges – which in a mere moment can decide on four years of work by an athlete. This is apart from the fact that even competitors in their best form can encounter someone even better. And in our everyday life or amateur athletics, who wouldn’t be proud of being the tenth – or even the thirty-fifth – best in the world in their chosen area?
You who stood on the medallists’ podium at the Olympics or Paralympics are not just among the best in your specific sports, but the best of the best, because those who stood alongside you on the starting line or who stepped onto the fencing piste opposite you also did not begin their sporting career the previous day, and they too had completed a similarly difficult period of preparation. It is a good idea for us to sometimes remind ourselves of these obvious truths, because Hungarian sports fans are sometimes – or perhaps often – unfair, and only see the assault on the summit, while forgetting about the rest of the climb. If we Hungarian are prone to exaggeration about failure, we are equally extreme in the admiration of our champions. When it comes to sport, forming balanced and moderate opinions is something unknown to us. This is something we are hardly able to change: we are Hungarians, and passion is in our blood.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
When you mount the podium it is a wonderful feeling to be Hungarian; and the feeling is not just wonderful but also borderless, uniting us all from Transylvania to Transcarpathia, and from Austria to America. Eight golds, three silvers and four bronzes at the Rio Olympics and one gold, eight silvers and nine bronze medals at the Rio Paralympics. Nothing needs to be added to this: there are no sums to do. If we compare the medals table to Hungary’s population, and our political and economic weight in the world, your achievements shine brighter still. After all, we Hungarians only contribute some 0.2% of the world’s population. At the Rio Olympics, Hungary’s strength was not only shown by the medals table. There exists an unofficial, but all the more popular, competition between Olympic champions at the Olympics: who achieved the most success, who won the most medals at the Olympics and who are in the top ten? In Rio we Hungarians proudly boasted two such athletes. Honour to the Ladies!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Complicated explanations which seek to describe the relationship between individual and community in the modern world always make me smile. They make me smile because to us our membership of the nation of Hungarians is as simple and natural as the two times table. We scored goals at Wembley, we ran with András Balczó, we made the final strokes to the end of the pool with Egerszegi in Seoul, we broke the world record with Katinka Hosszú, and we raced our kayak across the finish line with Gabi Szabó and Danuta Kozák. Yes, it was us. Because we Hungarians belong to the same nation.
You, who won medals at the Olympics and Paralympics, have becomes examples to the whole nation. You are our heroes, from whom we can learn how to beat our opponents in sportsmanlike competition, while pushing our own limits. I firmly believe that children don’t get up in the small hours of the morning to set off for training because of sports scholarships or new sports facilities, but so that they can be the next Katinka Hosszú, Danuta Kozák, Áron Szilágyi, Emese Szász or László Cseh. But enabling the best and most determined among them to achieve their goals does require swimming pools, sports halls and scholarships. And it also requires role models who they know are standing beside them in their work, or perhaps at the edge of the pool, the piste or the tatami mat. The Hungarian government will continue to do everything possible to enable as many children as possible to set out on this path. In recent years we have already stepped out of our own shadow in many areas, and are performing increasingly well.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The time has come for Budapest to step up to the plate. Perhaps you can be the best role models in the battle to host the Olympics. If we work for a Budapest Olympics with the same enthusiasm and perseverance as we saw from you in Rio and with which you all prepare from one competition to the next, and if we succeed in disregarding the hooting of cynics – and also if the stars are favourably aligned and we enjoy just a sprinkle of luck – then David could beat two Goliaths and we could receive the opportunity. And if we do receive it then we will certainly seize it with both hands.
Hungary is proud of you, proud of its champions and proud of every single Olympian who was there in Rio. In the name of Hungary I thank you for everything that you have done for your homeland.
Go, Hungary! Go, Hungarians!