What exactly is your State Secretariat doing?
We deal with all areas of sports, be they recreational or professional. Our tasks also include the promotion of young talent and the development of sports facilities. In addition, we are responsible for hosting international sporting events, and the associated tasks range from the application process all the way to completion. In all our activities, we work closely with the various sports associations and provide financial support for them.

What does the division of labour look like?
In principle, day-to-day operation is the responsibility of the associations. We only support them in additional issues and ensure their financing. As a former professional athlete, sports manager and sports lawyer I have the great advantage that I know the different levels well, both from the perspective of the athletes and the manager. That makes my job much easier and we help wherever we can. Sports was declared an area of national strategic importance by the government in 2011, and since 2016 the centralised financing runs through us. Our State Secretariat has also taken over numerous tasks from the Hungarian Olympic Committee. Now we are responsible for four subordinate bodies in the following areas: Olympic and non-Olympic sports, student sports, and leisure and disability sports. In addition, we are responsible for sports health development and sports science.

What does the sports strategy of the Hungarian government look like?
In order to achieve better public health our ultimate goal is to have as many Hungarians doing sports as possible. We need to create the opportunities for all children to start exercising as soon as they can, which is why we introduced daily PE classes in schools. Also an integral part of this strategy is the development of 21st-century sports facilities. And if we already have good athletes and good sports facilities, then we have to bring international sporting events to Hungary. That too is a big task for our State Secretariat.

What kind of events are we talking about?
Currently we support about 150 major international sporting events each year. The last international mega event was the FINA Watersports World Championship in summer 2017. Such events are a huge motivation for the athletes because they can compete internationally while having home-field advantage. International competitions are also significant for the marketing of Hungary. I can now say that our efforts are paying off, as in recent years Hungary has earned a good international reputation as a reliable venue for sporting events. Both foreign athletes and sports officials like to come to Hungary, so it is becoming easier and easier for us to convince international associations to award the right to organise their biggest competitions here.

#

What do these associations look at before making a decision?
They see that we are a safe country, but also know that when it comes to sporting events our commitments can be relied on. We have very good organising teams and an ever-growing wealth of experience. And of course there are more and more sports facilities of international standard in Hungary, so it is no longer a problem to bring international events here. And what’s even better: whoever was here, likes to come back.

What’s the next highlight?
Budapest will be the European Capital of Sport in 2019, which is a huge honour and opportunity for us. Of all the international sporting events that have taken place so far, this is one of the biggest recognitions. This is our upcoming big challenge that we want to meet at world level.

What are you most proud of from the three years since you were named state secretary?
Above all, the creation of a unified financing system and the integration of the tasks that we have taken over from the Olympic Committee. With these two things we achieved a comprehensive overview of all relevant areas of Hungarian sports life. Administrative tasks are much simpler, which means that we can act faster and more efficiently. This is good for the 16 prioritised sports that we handle, but also for the "show and team sports" such as football, basketball, handball, water polo, ice hockey and volleyball. These latter ones are also supported by the TAO law, which offers tax options for companies to finance sports.

Volleyball was added in 2017. Are there plans to expand the TAO circle?
No, not at the moment. Indirectly significantly more sports benefit from the subsidies than just the six. For example, by sharing sports facilities that have been built or modernised from TAO funds. Since the TAO law came into effect more than 300 sports facilities emerged and about the same number were completely renewed. And this also helped to significantly increase the number of international events, which I am really proud of.

# Tünde Szabó at the opening of a new sports facility in Budaörs

But what about the biggest sporting event there is?
We certainly did not say goodbye to hosting the Olympic Games in Budapest. I hope we will apply again in the near future but there is no specific date for it right now.

What lessons have you learned from the failed application last year?
For the future it is certainly advisable to ensure a broader public support.

What is the most important part of the country’s sports strategy?
Predictability. That is very important for professional sports to work well. Concentrating on the 16 top sports and the six show sports, the sports federations receive support of a magnitude that did not exist before 2010. It is very important that there are longterm predictable subsidies.

What was it like before 2010?
Very difficult. Most sports facilities were in a deplorable state. There was no single, predictable system. Before 2010 I was active in the Hungarian Swimming Association, so I know what I’m talking about. Today, by contrast, opportunities have vastly improved, both for the development of top athletes and those of the next generation. Many new programs have been launched especially to assist young talent. However, it will take more than ten years before their results will be reflected in medals. I am pleased that our government can again rely on a two-thirds majority and can therefore plan for the long term in its sports policy.

On a per capita basis Hungarian sport is very successful in international comparison. Why is that?
A very important aspect is that we have very good coaches. There is a very good, tradition-based educational system among them and the transfer of the know-how from older to younger generations is excellent. In 2015 we introduced a special programme for coaching and hundreds have already benefitted from that. I am particularly pleased that there are more and more trainers who have worked abroad and are now coming back to use their skills in the service of their homeland.

Where do you still see the need for action?
The crucial foundations are laid and the most important programmes have been started, but there is always a need for minor adjustments. Sport has great social significance, not least because of its enormous community-building effect. All Hungarians should do sports and the basics for that have to be laid at a very young age. The more Hungarians do sports, the better it will be for our public health and the easier it will be for young talent. This in turn has a positive effect on top-class sport. The government has fully recognised these relationships and acts accordingly. The fact that our Prime Minister is very enthusiastic about sports certainly helped in that process.

# "We need to create the opportunities for all children to start exercising as soon as they can."

Is the PM’s very strong focus on football not a problem for other sports?
Absolutely not. We support a wide range of sports. In addition to the aforementioned TAO and priority sports subsidies, the socalled up-and-coming sports are also being promoted. These include sports that have the potential to become an Olympic discipline. Karate – which will be on the Olympic programme for the first time at the 2020 Tokyo Games – is a good example for that. And as far as football is concerned, it is a fact that football has the most organised participants in Hungary and in many other countries in the world. Hundreds of thousands of children play football here. The construction of stadiums is also about the spectators, who should be given the opportunity to follow matches in civilised surroundings. I am sure that sooner or later the youth programmes that have been started over the past few years will bear fruit and Hungary will be a great football nation once again.

That was a very long time ago...
Yes, in the 1950s. Unfortunately, I do not know what exactly happened in the decades after that. In any case, we were always at the forefront in the sports of canoe racing, judo, wrestling, athletics, fencing and swimming, so there is probably no doubt about Hungary being an athletic country.

# At the medal ceremony with Olympic champion Katinka Hosszú at the Budapest stop of the swimming World Cup in October

In your sport, swimming, Hungary has been very successful for years. What is the explanation for that?
As with football, the coaches and the transfer of knowledge are very important. We have had very good swimming coaches in the past but I am very confident about the future as well, because we still have very good coaches but also an increasingly broad-based young talent programme. In addition, the funding system started in 2011 is not so focused on Budapest any more. But this is also true for other sports. Before 2011 talented kids from outside of the capital had it a lot more difficult. Many of them did not have the necessary conditions for training during the winter months. With the changes we implemented, talent from outside of Budapest has a much better chance of developing and making it among the pros.

Do you still have connections with the swimming community?
I still help the Hungarian Swimming Association wherever I can and I have very good relationships with both our active swimmers and our trainers.

Any plans for this area?
The "Every child should learn to swim!" programme is very close to my heart, but the corresponding construction of new swimming pools is extremely important to achieve that. The goal is to have swimming pools everywhere. By 2023 all children should be able to swim until the age of ten.

At the last election you won your constituency, so you are now also an MP.
I was born and raised in Nyíregyháza. I lived there for the first three decades of my life but still today I am very connected to the city. As an MP I can help my hometown even better than before. It is a great honour for me to represent the interests of the citizens of Nyíregyháza in Budapest. I got a lot from my hometown. Now I want to give her and her citizens something back.


Tünde Szabó was an active swimmer from 1982 to 1992. The highlight of her career as an athlete was in the early 1990s: in 1991 she won silver at the world chamPionship in Perth and took silver at the 1992 summer olymPics in Barcelona. In 1998 she received her diploma in physical education at the University of Physical Education. In 2006 she obtained a diploma as a lawyer from the University of Szeged and in 2009 she graduated Pázmány University as a sports lawyer. From 2011 to 2015 she was the secretary general of the hungarian swimming association, then acted as its vice-president until 2017. She was appointed secretary of state for sports in September 2015 and she has been a member of Parliament in the Fidesz-KDNP group since April this year.



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