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Katalin Novák's speech at the opening of the Budapest World Athletics Championships

Today the world's attention is on the Hungarian capital, Budapest. We 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. Because we Hungarians love challenges, and seek out and take advantage of opportunities.

I cordially welcome the athletes, coaches, chaperones and fans, the members of the athletics family from all over the world to Budapest, the capital of a sporting nation!

It is an honour for me to welcome you in my country.

Dear Mr. President, Dear Seb!

On behalf of all Hungarians, I thank the World Athletics and you personally for your vote of confidence! I promise we will be worthy of it!
Why Budapest? 

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. 

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. 

Because we always want 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 societal cooperation that we have successfully achieved.

At this point, allow me say thank you to 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!

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 World Athletics Championships are primarily about outstanding athletic performance, 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 expect long term benefits from the World Championships.

I am proud that as a heritage from our Olympic bid we have built the Ferencváros Leisure and Sports Park, including the new athletics centre, in this neighbourhood with a troubled past. The Park is a heritage from our Olympic bid. 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. 

Thank you for your hard, untiring, selfless work! 

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen!

We need sport 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. 

In the shadow of the war in our immediate neighbour, Ukraine, the role of sport as a peace promoting force is appreciated. And through sport, we can also experience what it feels like to engage in a noble and fair fight with each other. 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.  

Dear Athletes! I wish you a fair, injury-free, and successful competition! (With your permission, I wish the Hungarian athletes to do their best in particular!)

And if our foreign guests were to learn just one word from the magical Hungarian language, let it be the encouragement used to cheer on athletes: Hajrá! (Go!)

I now declare the World Athletics Championships Budapest 2023 OPEN.