According to Nemzetisport.hu, the annual congress of LEN (Ligue Européenne de Natation) was held in Budapest this year. More precisely, the meeting took place in Duna Arena, confirming the variety of purposes this venue can fulfil.
The 52 delegates of the members met in a boardroom on the first floor of the building. They were greeted by Tünde Szabó, the Hungarian undersecretary responsible for sports. In her speech, she talked about the exceptional national cooperation that resulted in one of the best FINA world cups of all time in 2017 and led to the hosting opportunity for Hungary of such an important event of sports diplomacy this year.
“We are proud that our devotion, unique solutions and hard work showed the world, again and again, what Hungary, Budapest, Hungarian sports and Hungarian talent are like.”
She also added that the fact that Hungary won the opportunity to host a number of the coming international sporting events is proof that “for us, doing sports and supporting sports is a real profession of faith and – while being in tune with LEN’s goals – we are devoted to do what is best for our sportspeople as well as to the continued progress and innovation of the sports sciences, sports healthcare, sports law and sports marketing.” The undersecretary mentioned that 39 swimming pools were built in the country in the last 8 years, which is an important aspect of being able to answer the challenges of our time. “The challenges may be new, but the answers are based on old values such as hard work, integrity, tolerance and loyalty.”
The capital was represented by Alexandra Szalay-Bobrovniczky, the assistant lord mayor. She greeted the participants of the LEN congress and highlighted the fact that Budapest’s popularity is still on the rise – since 2010, the number of tourists visiting rose by 30% -, a huge part of which are the various prestigious sporting events of the past years, especially the FINA world cup which was attended by hundreds of thousands of people.
“We are proud that Budapest won the title of “Sports Capital of Europe” for 2019, which we plan to celebrate with rich programs, including events of sports diplomacy such as this, too.”
Paolo Barelli, the president of LEN, thanked the hard work of the Hungarian organisers and told the representatives of the government and of the capital that practically everybody in the room could be eligible for a Hungarian citizenship since, because of the various aquatic events, they spend more time in Budapest than in their homes, inciting general amusement in the room. What he said was true, though, since,
in 2020, Duna Arena will be home to the European Water Polo Championship in January and then to the European Swimming Championship in May.
After this, the president, in his yearly summary, highlighted what a successful year for Europe this past one had been, since half of the medals (105) at the Budapest World Cup were won by European sportsmen and -women, and the proportion was similar when it came to places won (353) at the finals, too. Moreover, the different LEN-events were a great success as well, such as the ‘Short Course Worlds’ European Championships held in Copenhagen – chosen as the best sporting event of the year in Denmark -, the European Diving Championship in Kiev and the final of the Water Polo Champion’s League in Budapest.
Tamás Gyárfás, the economic leader of LEN (who could only be present because the event was held in Budapest – he cannot leave the capital ever since he is a suspect of having instigated someone to commit murder), in the financial summary revealed that
the committee has supported the member committees with the greatest sum of all as of now (4 million EUR in 4 years), and offered record-breaking sums to the sportsmen and -women: 30% more in 2017 than in previous years.
At the congress, two Olympic champions – Dániel Gyurta and Tamás Molnár – were representing Hungary as well, for the first time in history. Another agenda of the day was to elect two new members. Alekszej Vlaszenko, the Russian leader of the diving-, synchronised swimming- and water polo-club, and Marius Hendrik Gerrit van Zeijts, the leader of the Dutch Swimming Committee, were elected.
Also for the first time in history, a European politician of high rank, Antonio Tajani was present for the second half of the Congress. He was there for the exposition of
the “Learn-to-swim, Prevent Drowning” program that revealed shocking data about the number of people dying because of drowning.
Although Europeans make up only 10% of the statistics, programs are going to be launched to decrease the number further, since the number of victims is still 27 thousand every year, meaning at least 3 people die drowning every hour.
The event was organised by the joint effort of the Hungarian Swimming Committee and the Budapest2017 Nkft. Their leaders, Sándor Wladár president, Éva Szántó managing director and Sándor Balogh financial manager were awarded a plaque by Paolo Barelli during Friday night’s dinner on Margaret Island.
In other Duna Arena-related news, check out this article about France taking Hungary as an example.