Hungary fears feuding swimmers may undermine Olympic chances

Thu Nov 24, 2016 9:10am EST
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By Marton Dunai

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary's top swimmers including triple Olympic champion Katinka Hosszu have demanded a complete overhaul of the country's Swimming Association in a bitter dispute that threatens to harm Budapest's bid to host the 2024 summer Olympics.

Keen to defuse the row, the government has backed the swimmers' calls for reform, though it has stopped short of endorsing Hosszu's demand for the resignation of the association's veteran chairman, Tamas Gyarfas.

Hosszu accuses Gyarfas of running the sport in Hungary in an authoritarian and opaque manner. Gyarfas, who has headed the association with only a brief break since 1993, denies the accusations of mismanagement.

Hosszu and a dozen other top Hungarian swimmers including London gold medalist breaststroker Daniel Gyurta issued a joint statement on Monday demanding a new leadership, better conditions, transparent rules and fair access to funds.

"All of us resent the singular influence of the chairman on all decision-making," Hosszu said in the statement, posted on her Facebook page. "Most swimmers don't dare to speak up."

"The single most important condition to the situation we desire is that the current leaders of the Hungarian Swimming Association - which no longer enjoys the confidence it needs to represent the world of swimming - step down," it said.

Hungary will host the World Aquatics Championships next July, an event it hopes will buttress Budapest's standing as a top sporting venue before the International Olympic Committee picks the host city of the 2024 Summer Olympics next September.

Budapest is one of three remaining candidates alongside Paris and Los Angeles after Rome withdrew from the race.   Continued...

2016 Rio Olympics - Swimming - Victory Ceremony - Women's 200m Individual Medley Victory Ceremony - Olympic Aquatics Stadium - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 09/08/2016. Katinka Hosszu (HUN) of Hungary poses with her gold medal on the podium.   REUTERS/David Gray