Photo: MTI

President Novak opens World Athletics Championships

In the shadow of the war in Ukraine, "the role of sports as a peace promoting force is appreciated", President Katalin Novak said in her address at the opening ceremony of the World Athletics Championships in Budapest on Saturday.
19. August 2023 20:51

“Through sport, we can also experience what it feels like to engage in a noble and fair fight with each other,” the president said. “And it is a good idea to compete in the same way, on the basis of mutual respect, also in other aspects of our lives, ” she added.

“The World Athletics Championships are primarily about outstanding athletic performance,” Novak said. “But for us, Hungarians, they mean more than that. We celebrate elite sport and casual sport — as casual sport is the foundation for a healthy lifestyle — both at the same time”.

“We need sports and sports competitions in good, as well as in more difficult times. Because such an event lifts you up, and moves you away from daily problems,” she said.

Novak thanked President Sebastian Coe and World Athletics for their vote of confidence. “I promise we will be worthy of it,” she said.

“Why Budapest?” Novak posed the question.

“Because we Hungarians have been standing guard here in the heart of Europe for a thousand years. In fact, we will celebrate the Day of St. Stephen, our founding king, tomorrow, thanks to whom Hungary embarked on the path of Western Christianity,” she said.

“Because we guarantee high competition standards and a safe environment for participants and visitors of the World Championships. Because in addition to Budapest being on the world’s culture and tourism map, our country has hosted over forty European and World Championships and international sporting finals in the last ten years,” Novak said.

“Because we want always to go above and beyond. We fulfil the tasks of hosting with heartfelt enthusiasm, and with the creativity Hungarians are known for, relying on a broad social cooperation that we have successfully achieved,” the president said.

Novak thanked all those who put in place the conditions and provided the support necessary for the World Championships. “It is commendable when we can show unity,” she said.

“And as we have a reputation for being exceptional hosts, we would like you to have an enjoyable time in our country. We would like the athletes to give the best performance of their lives. And beyond the sporting experience, we hope our guests will get a taste of our national culture, our beautiful capital, the kind and open nature of the Hungarian people, and our world-famous cuisine! To make sure that you will have a good time with us, we will show you the best we can be, and become who we ourselves would like to be,” the president added.

She noted that the Hungarian capital “will be in the spotlight for nine days”. “Two hundred participating countries, thousands of athletes, tens of thousands of foreign spectators, hundreds of thousands of fans on site and millions in front of their screens,” she said.

“Because we Hungarians love challenges, and seek out and take advantage of opportunities,” she added.

Novak also noted that “as a heritage from our Olympic bid we have built the Ferencvaros Leisure and Sports Park, including the new athletics centre.” “Rust was turned to gold here. Life returned to the banks of the Danube. I am proud that the organisers have also made it possible for the disadvantaged to cheer in person. I am proud that while one of Europe’s largest popular music festivals has just ended in Budapest, we can show that a festival atmosphere can also be created around a sporting event. I am proud that hundreds of thousands have been encouraged to participate in sports through the world championships.”

“And I am proud of the organisers, including the volunteers, thanks to whom we can be here today,” Novak said, wishing athletes a fair, injury-free and successful competition.

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