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Tokyo 1964: The Success of Hungarian Athletes at Olympics Games Held in the Land of the Rising Sun

Zsófia Nagy-Vargha 2021.07.19.

It won’t be the first time that Hungarian athletes compete for Olympic medals in Tokyo. In 1964, 182 Hungarians participated in the Olympic Games, and not without success. Hungarian participants won a total of 22 medals, including 10 gold, 7 silver, and 5 bronze. Thus, Hungary managed to reach sixth place in the medal table. The most successful athlete was foil fencer Ildikó Rejtő, in which she came out on top both individually and as a team. The Hungarian national football team also became Olympic champions once again after 1952. This year we have 176 Hungarian athletes to root for.

Fifty-seven years ago, on October 10, 1964, the 18th Summer Olympic Games began in Tokyo, the Japanese capital. Before the Olympics, Hungarian athletes prepared at the Tata training camp, 70 kilometers west of Budapest. The first group of the 182-member Hungarian delegation had set out on Tuesday, September 22nd. They were taken by bus to the airport where the official farewell ceremony took place. Then they flew to Tokyo via Amsterdam and Anchorage, where they were received by representatives of the International Olympic Committee at the airport on Wednesday. The second group of 100 athletes followed them on October 2nd.

Photo: Sándor Bojár/Fortepan

Photo: Sándor Bojár/Fortepan

At the opening ceremony on October 10th, the Hungarian team marched in the thirty-fifth position, the national flag was carried by javelin thrower Gergely Kulcsár.

The Tokyo Olympic games was broadcast in Hungary via radio; unfortunately, the broadcast was interrupted several times: There was a day when a submarine broke the underwater cable, so the transmission was off for many European radio stations. However, by the time of the decisive water polo match between the Soviet Union and Hungary, the connection was repaired, but the quality of the broadcast left much to be desired. Hungary won the match 5-2 and became Olympic champions.

In addition to Ildikó Rejtő, the water polo team and the football team, Tibor Pézsa won gold medals in saber fencing, the Hungarian team won gold medals in fencing epee, Ferenc Török won gold medals in pentathlon, László Hammerl won gold medals in sport shooting, Imre Polyák and István Kozma won gold medals in wrestling. Silver and bronze medals were won by the following athletes:


Gyula Zsivótzky – athletics, men’s hammer throw

Gergely Kulcsár – athletics, men’s javelin

Márta Rudas – athletics, women’s javelin

Mihály Hesz – canoe, men K1 1000m kayak single

Katalin Makray – gymnastics, uneven bars for women

Imre Földi – weightlifting, men’s bantamweight

Géza Tóth – weightlifting, men’s light heavyweight


Vilmos Varju – athletics, men’s shot put

Anikó Ducza – gymnastics, floor gymnastics for women

Modern pentathlon, men’s team competition

László Hammerl – shooting, men’s small bore rifle, three positions

Győző Veres – weightlifting, men’s light heavyweight

As for the Hungarian national football team: after 12 years, the success of the legendary “Golden Eleven” of Ferenc Puskás and his team was repeated, with Hungary becoming Olympic champions again! In 1956, the team had to refrain from participating in the Olympics due to political pressure, and in 1960 they finished third. After beating Romania 2-0 in the quarterfinals and the United Arab Republic 6-0, the red, white and green triumphed 2-1 against Czechoslovakia on October 23rd.

The photos about the participation of the Hungarian team and the most important relics of the athletes were exhibited between June 15 and July 12 at the Hungarian Cultural Institute in Tokyo, which was also visited by Seiko Hashimoto, head of the Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games.

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For this year’s Olympics, also in Tokyo, Krisztián Kulcsár, President of the Hungarian Olympic Committee (MOB), finds it possible that Hungary will win 13 medals. Meanwhile, former president Pál Schmitt expects 6-7 Hungarian gold medals, mainly in epee fencing, fencing, swimming, kayaking, pentathlon, judo, and sport shooting.

Featured photo by Sándor Bojár/Fortepan

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