The World Athletics Championship, currently at its half-way point in Budapest, will be a worldwide success “if we can muster all our energy to remain organised”, Balázs Fürjes, co-leader of the organising committee, told the website mandiner.hu on Thursday.
Some 50 Hungarian athletes have competed so far, and many have set national records, he said to Mandiner.
Noting that in 2019 the freshly elected city leadership vowed to ban “world championships, track and field centres and attempts to brownfield sites to green areas”, Fürjes said that “a movement was then launched to save the event”. Fürjes led the negotiations with the municipality as the state secretary for the development of Budapest at the time, and managed to reach an agreement, he said.
Weeks before the event, Mayor Gergely Karácsony said the government had broken its word, and he threatened to mount a demonstration against the championship. “I think it is good for everyone that that didn’t happen … common sense prevailed,” Fürjes said.
As part of the deal, the government pledged to allocate an annual HUF 50 billion (EUR 130.5 million) for five years to Budapest district authorities participating in its Healthy Budapest programme. The 9th district received HUF 20 billion (EUR 52 million) for related developments. Government funding could be up to HUF 7 billion (EUR 18.2 million) this year, and negotiations are ongoing about further funding, he said.
The event has drawn some 2,200 athletes from 202 countries, and some 300,000 tickets have already been sold, he said. World Athletics says some 1 billion viewers around the world are watching on TV and streaming services, he said. The event has also resulted in some 500,000 guest nights in Hungarian hotels and billions in revenues for retailers and the hospitality industry, he added.
The Budapest transport company (BKK) said earlier that traffic in the city will be restricted on August 26 and 27 due to marathons. Thoroughfares such as Dózsa György Street and Andrássy Boulevard will be closed from 4 AM on Saturday and Sunday, until 11 AM and 12.30 PM, respectively, the statement said. Dózsa György Street will also be closed on Sunday evening, they said.
Meanwhile, Mayor Gergely Karácsony and World Athletics head Sebastian Coe greeted Ukrainian athletes at City Hall, marking the 32th anniversary of Ukrainian independence and the 150th anniversary of Budapest’s unification. Coe awarded World Athletics gongs to high jumper Yaroslava Mahuchikh and long and triple jumper Marina Bekh-Romanchuk.
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