POSTED: Thursday December 1st 2016

World Sailing Chief Backs Budapest 2024's Lake Balaton as the Perfect Olympic Venue

Budapest’s “innovative” plan for sailing at the 2024 Olympic Games will set new standards in allowing spectators to get up close and personal with the sport.

That is the ringing endorsement of the Budapest 2024 bid made by Alastair Fox, the Director of Events for World Sailing, after visiting Hungary to inspect the proposed facilities.

The sailing events will be held at the popular tourist resort of Lake Balaton, less than an hour and a half’s drive from the centre of Budapest and accessible by modern highways of at least four lanes.

And according to Mr Fox, the ability to use an inland lake setting, rather than open sea as in previous Games, will bring a whole new dimension to the way the sport can be showcased.

He said: “In Balaton there is a unique opportunity to be innovative and to get more people on the water to enjoy watching sailing.

“The conditions of open sea with wind and tides normally make it hard from a spectator point of view, but the calmer waters of an inland lake mean you can get people right in the middle of the action.

“It’s something we would want to really explore and encourage with the Budapest team if their bid to get the Games is successful.”

Sailing currently has ten events in the Olympic schedule covering ten days of action.

Lake Balaton, as the largest lake in central Europe and one of the region’s most popular tourist attractions, already has the hotel and accommodation infrastructure to handle major events. The majority of hotels in the Lake Balaton region has agreed to provide accommodation for a Budapest Games in 2024.

Following Mr Fox’s visit, the Budapest 2024 bid team will be working with World Sailing to create further innovative ideas to enhance the spectator experience.

Attila Mizs√©r, Director of Sports for Budapest 2024, said: “A key part of our strategy has been to meet with leaders of International Federations for Olympic sports to best understand how we can put the athletes at the centre of the Games and provide the best possible facilities to ensure we continue to surpass the demands of world-class competition.”

Enabled by the unique geography of Balaton and the collaboration between the venues team and World Sailing, the plan is to develop a water-based “stadium” environment, with spectator access to the medals course and the finish line in a way that is not normally achievable at a sailing event.

Ideas under discussion include using barges which are already based on the lake, as well as making provision for other spectator boats to be stationed safely around the courses.

Mr Fox added: “We have always aimed for a very strong legacy from Olympic events, and the plans for Budapest would fit within that ideal.

“The events and the infrastructure they are looking to develop would create a facility that would leave a long-lasting legacy in a very significant area of Central Europe.

“One of our key messages is that sailing is an inclusive activity that is an affordable sport for all.  Holding the Games events in Balaton would inevitably provide opportunities for huge numbers both to watch and to then get involved in the sport themselves.”

Budapest 2024 describes its master plan as a “real alternative” to the larger capitals and mega cities that have hosted the Summer Olympic Games in recent times. The initiative to create an unprecedentedly intimate sailing event at Lake Balaton is one of many new opportunities offered by Budapest’s mid-sized city and Hungary’s naturally accessible geography, opportunities that are not possible in settings with a wider urban spread.

- Named as European Capital of Sport 2019, Budapest is a high-value city, with an excellent transport infrastructure and a long-term sustainable development plan. The Budapest 2024 Olympic Bid proposes a compact and intimate Games footprint in the capital, and a truly nationwide Games that features sport in six other Olympic cities. Budapest 2024 is dedicated to deliver an on-budget and inclusive Olympic and Paralympic Games in one of the top 20 most peaceful countries in the world. Sports-mad Hungary was one of the founding members of the IOC and has participated in the Games since 1896. Hungary is the only country ranked in the top ten of the all-time Olympic Medal table that has not yet hosted the Olympic Games.

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Keywords · Busapest 2024 · Olympics · Lake Balaton · sailing

Name: Ivan Rozsa
Organization: Budapest 2024

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