BUDAPEST, September 13, 2019 - From having a strategic location at the center of Europe to possessing the necessary infrastructure, Balázs Fürjes is convinced that Budapest has the ingredients of a global sports capital, in spite of a failed bid for the 2024 Olympic Games.
 
Fürjes is a Hungarian Government Commissioner and the State Secretary at the Prime Ministers' Office responsible for the development of Budapest, as well as the bidding and delivering of sport events in the city. He was the Chairman of the Budapest 2024 Olympic Bid – a process which, he believes, left a few legacies even though it failed “due to political turbulence”.
 
Speaking to international journalists on Friday during an “exclusive background discussion” the LOC Chairman of the World Urban Games unpacked the details of the ambitious strategy, which aims to redefine Budapest as a global sports city.
 
THE INGREDIENTS “The first ingredient is location; Budapest is in the heart, in the middle of Europe, very accessible from everywhere. It’s a mid-size global city so it’s large enough but not too big. It is a compact city, so everything can be organized in small distances. The economy is booming - for seven years we have an economy growth that is double the average growth of the European Union,  and the culture is vibrant, it’s a sport loving city and a sport loving nation. It’s a good value for money city, the service sector is developing and the infrastructure is there.”
 
Fürjes explained that the Budapest 2024 Olympic Bid was great for the city's self esteem and self awareness. “We realized that we have a great city that is filled with opportunities,” he said.
 
GOAL “We do international sports events because they have added value to the city of Budapest.” According to him, these international sports events are one of the many tools to raise the profile and image of the city.
 
For the international sport strategy, Budapest is focused on six categories of events; global sport events, national (Hungarian) sport events, new generation events, multi sport events, conventions/conferences, and special events. “There is a very clear goal of our strategy. The goal is to be one of the three most important global sports capitals in Europe,” Fürjes added.
 
INFRASTRUCTURE Fürjes has steered city-defining projects in Budapest that include the Papp László Arena, the Groupama Arena (New Ferencváros Stadium) and the iconic Duna Arena - completed in a record-breaking two years' time. The new 65.000-seat Puskás Ferenc Stadium will be inaugurated on November 15, while the 2023 IAAF World Championships will be held in the new athletic centre with 40,000 capacity.
 
This year, Budapest has hosted four major international sports events and the World Urban Games. They have series of events across different sports lined up for the next decade including the IJF World Judo Championships in 2022 and the FINA World Aquatics Championships in 2027. From 2020 to 2022, the ITF Fed Cup Finals will be held in Budapest.
 
When asked if there are plans to bid for the Olympics again, Fürjes responded: “We actually realized that Olympics is actually a fantastic thing but even without the Olympics there are several opportunites in sports. So let’s concentrate on those." 
 
He said that the Youth Olympics is an event that Budapest “could one day consider”, while hailing Buenos Aires 2018 as “a turning point in the history of the Youth Olympic Games”. He revealed that they are working very closely with the Buenos Aires team in terms of planning international sports events.
 
CHALLENGES AIPS asked about the challenges encountered in the process of hosting major sporting events in Budapest, Fürjes said "It’s important that you always remain humbel and never to be too confident but I think most of the areas are secured I would not call it a challenge but I think the most important thing is public and youth engagement. Leandro de la Rossa, CEO of Buenos Aires Youth Olympics, I loved what they did, bringing sports to the people, allowing the people to participate and enjoy the integral part of the city and the city’s life.
 
"That needs careful planning, maximum two weeks, which are very important, but the road, opportunities in the years before, build up appetite, desire to be there and participate, together with federations and local communities, and sponsors."
 
 By Chibuogwu Nnadiegbulam AIPS Media, PHOTO by Maria Pia Beltran/AIPS Media