The government has declared sports a strategic sector because it recognises its indispensable role in modern living, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told sports daily Nemzeti Sport in an interview published on Thursday.
Aims include Hungary hosting the Olympics and the national eleven competing in the World Cup finals, Orbán said.
Meanwhile, Orbán said he had yet to receive a coronavirus vaccine. “I’m going to wait in line; now it’s time to protect those working in hospital ICUs.”
In sports, the priority is “survival and preservation” until life can get back to normal, he said. “That’s not so far off, and could be sooner than we think.” He said public health and and safety currently were priority considerations. “That limits sports at the moment, but the vaccine is now here,” he said, adding that life could start returning to normal in a matter of weeks.
Orbán said sports had a “special place” in the lives of Hungarians and was an important element in the nation’s education and “character building”. Also, it was “the best way to compare the performance of nations”.
The prime minister said football, as the most popular and widespread sport, had a prime role. “I always thought football was a matter of self-worth in Hungary.”
Meanwhile, the “left wing opposes everything, including sports.” “I don’t think it is normal to be niggardly on stadiums and children’s sports,” he said, adding that Hungarian sport was “far from drowning in money”.
Regarding school sports, Orbán said that whereas PE lessons had once been treated as a health-care measure, now they specialised in various sports in cooperation with sports clubs.
The prime minister said he was especially proud of the government’s kindergarten sports policy and the equipment provided. Otherwise, sports facilities are now “no worse than Belgian, Spanish or Austrian clubs,” he said.
Referring to corporate culture and sports subsidies known as “tao”, Orbán said that the scheme, besides creating additional funding, fostered close bonds between corporations and sports organisations.
Meanwhile, he said the government was also providing quality control in state-accredited football, handball and basketball academies, and was mulling drawing volleyball and ice hockey into the system too.
The systems of academies and sports clubs are “coming into alignment, with good academies set up where there are good clubs to support them.” Developing club culture will also help struggling clubs financially, he said, by “prodding every member to be as good as possible”.
Regarding the future, Orbán cited plans to build a large ice hockey centre, a pentathlon centre, a national fencing programme, a kayaking academy, a Moto GP track and to reconstruct the Hungaroring Formula-1 track. “We also have serious plans for cyclists,” he said.
“I’d like to live to see Hungary hosting the Olympics — which we would have achieved by 2032 had it not been for the domestic coup,” he said, referring to the Momentum Movement’s signature drive against an Olympic bid in 2016.
The prime minister said he also hoped to see “Hungarian football rising to a level it has already achieved twice, to the point of playing in World Cup finals.”
Featured photo by Tibor Illyés/MTI