Shine Through Sports, Viktor Urban’s Strategy

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The newly-elected Hungarian Prime Minister will proudly witness the launch of the Giro from Budapest on Friday, May 6, one of the most important cycling events of the season. An ally of Vladimir Putin, Viktor Orban took the example of the Russian president by polarizing major sporting events in order to restore his image with his people.

Sport is an instrument of soft power in the hands of the Hungarian Prime Minister. Less than a year after hosting four matches in the European Football Championship, Hungary fell for the first time in Magyar’s history by attracting one of the two largest cycling races in the world. With the Tour of Italy departing, Friday 6 May in Budapest, Hungary’s Viktor Orban brings together another world sporting event.

This has been common since nationalist Viktor Orban returned to head the government in 2010, who had just rested with his fourth, landslide, victory in legislative elections.

Football fanatic and former semi-professional Viktor Orbán has made no secret of his ambitions to revive the golden years of “Historic Greater Hungary”, which were before World War I. His government is increasingly trying to use sport – especially football – to achieve domestic political goals, but also to see Hungary regain some influence in the region.

Vladimir Putin’s strategy

The semi-finals and final of the European Men’s Handball Championships at the brand new Budapest Arena last January, the World Swimming Championships in June at the Dona Arena, and then the World Championships in Athletics next year in a new stadium under construction on the east bank of the Danube … List of competitions Long hosted by Hungary.

Last year, Budapest also hosted two World Judo Championships, and before that in 2017, when Russian President Vladimir Putin was Orban’s guest of honor.

Since 2010, the Hungarian prime minister has approached the Moscow strongman, who imitated his inflation in organizing competitions, even removing Russia from world sport since the invasion of Ukraine.

►► Read also on The war in Ukraine: sport by sport, sanctions against Russia

However, unlike its eastern neighbor, Hungary has not hosted the FIFA World Cup Finals or the Olympic Games. Budapest’s bid to host the 2024 Olympics was withdrawn a few months before the award was awarded in 2017.

The ‘Nolibia’ petition by the opposition Momentum movement, which gathered young activists, collected more than 266,000 signatures, in order to organize a referendum against Budapest’s candidacy for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

The Russian president, for his part, has succeeded in bringing the two leading sporting events on the planet to Russia: the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, and the 2018 World Cup.

But nothing is stopping Orban. In Hungary, infrastructures are multiplying in spite of everything. In addition to the last Olympic swimming pool (Duna Arena) and the athletics stadium of the future, the city also has the Budapest Sportarina, which hosted the fourth final of the Handball Champions League last year, but also the imposing Puskas Arena, which opened in 2019 and which alone cost nearly £ 600 million euros.

For Urban, sport is a ‘tool to legitimize his power’

Despite the disdain caused by the momentum [parti centriste hongrois] As for the nationalist right in power, the 58-year-old prime minister did not bid farewell to his dream of the Olympic Games. The latter believes that with the increase in the number of modern stadiums, the opportunities for Budapest increase.

In a review interview for the Tokyo Games given in August to the sports daily Nemzeti Sport, in which he is a regular in the columns, the Hungarian prime minister asserted that “[était] It becomes more and more clear every year that Hungary [était] It deserves to host the Olympics.”

“The possibility has faded away, for now. But hosting the Olympic Games is an eternal dream for Hungarians. A love that never ends,” ignited this totalitarian leader.

“Today, sport is a political weapon,” Lucas Oppen, a research associate at IRIS who specializes in the geopolitics of sport and Russia, sums up to AFP. “Even if it does little to improve his image abroad, it is a tool to legitimize his power, and justify the importance of his regime.”

In Russia, the image of the president has not been established abroad, but it has succeeded at home, ”supports the researcher, author of “La sportokratura sous Vladimir Putin”.

Passionate about football, Viktor Urban has also used his favorite sport as a tool of national affirmation. Most of the top clubs are under the leadership of people close to the prime minister. Specialist Gabor Zabados explains to Slate: “For years, the income that can be earned in Hungarian football did not depend on the market, but on political and economic relations. Every club tries to find a suitable owner. Those with the best political connections allow their club to be economically successful.” .

On Wednesday, in this country with a poor tradition of cycling, a small crowd gathered at Champions Square in Budapest for the teams’ presentation. Starring Hungarian Attila Walter, who last year became the first representative of his country to wear the Giro’s pink jersey.

with AFP

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