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World Games,
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Track & Field Competition Concludes
Photography by Gary Green
VIEW RESULTS when available from MTSE


Closing Ceremonies: The Best Moment of the Games

Story by Eleanor Jones
Audio by Douglas Armstrong
Photography by Peter Ottlakan, Robert Garypie and Eleanor Jones

free player

Musical portion of the program

Maurice Slapak of the WTGF and Gyorgy Szekely of the MTSE (& local organizing committee) address the athletes, followed by the traditional circle around the track

It was a lovely sunny afternoon here at Nepstadion (the People's Stadium) in Budapest when the athletes, organizers, accompanying persons, and the media gathered to mark the closing of the XII World Transplant Games.

The track competition had just ended less than an hour before when we were asked to clear the area on the track so that the ceremony could get underway at three o'clock.


Many of the athletes were reluctant to settle down for the program because they were busy greeting each other, trading team shirts, posing for team photos in front of all the country flags, singing or whistling together, and just generally having fun.


The Argentinians were especially rowdy, singing, waving their arms, and clapping. Their enthusiasm was contagious, and soon many people were coming over to their area of the stands!
The ceremony was emceed by Zsuzsa Csisztu, the well-known former Hungarian gymnast who also spoke at the opening ceremonies, and was translated throughout into English.
Ms. Csisztu mentioned that she had attended some of the events during the week, and that she was impressed with the transplant recipient athletes.

Kovács Kriszta, a woman singer in a flowing white dress, sang a beautiful rendition of "El Condor Pasa" with accomanpaniment at first, then a capella. The appreciative crowd clapped in time, providing background when the background sound failed. Ms. Kovács then sang the song "Hava Negila" which the crowd quite obviously enjoyed - to judge by the rhythmic clapping and dancing in the audience!

The wave made several passes - started by the Italians (you could hear it, as well as see it - the standing and waving, accompanied by a vocal "whooaaaaa!" sound) The crowd was irrepressible.

Vikidál Gyula, dressed in flowing white shirt and white pants, sang a rock song from "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." Reminiscent of a retro Elvis-era song, it drove the crowd wild! Mr. Vikidál then sang a popular Hungarian song that the Hungarians in the crowd certainly recognized. There was a lot of singing along during the refrain, and much applause afterwards.


As the two soldiers marched onto the field to stand at either side of the stage for the more official parts of the ceremony, the emcee commented on the crowd's enthusiasm: "Now I can see that all our formal plans for the official closing have vanished!"


Mr. Maurice Slapak, president of the World Transplant Games Federation, took the stage next. He asked the audience to thank the Hungarian organizing committee with three rousing "Hip hip hooray!" cheers. Mr. Slapak stated that he wants to see everyone in Kobe, Japan in two years' time for the next Games, "running like Hell, jumping like Hell, and having a wonderful time!"

Mr. Georgy Szekely, the president of the MTSE (Magyar Transzplantáltak Kulturális és Sportegyesületének), then addressed the crowd. He commented on the change in procedure necessitated by the length of time required to play the national anthems of the medal winners, expressing the wish that the anthems could be played, as it means a great deal to the athletes.

"And now it is time to say goodbye.... I guess the message of the World Transplant Games could be the following: those people who have been touched by the thin border between life and death have realized how false their former values have been. They have realized that it's not the money, not the stressed life of hurrying and business that matters, but it is the friendship, love and family that matter. It is a shame that those people who are making the world go around do not realize this and do not listen to us. We could tell them how it is possible to build a real castle on real foundations.

"And now let us tell the truth to people, let us promote love, let us hold each other's hands and run to the middle of the field as our way of saying goodbye until the next games, try to hold each others' hands and try to lead each other on the path of love. In these moments, let us close the 12th World Transplant Games, and I will see you in two years' time in Kobe, Japan."

The World Transplant Games flag was lowered and ceremonially given to the representatives of the Japanese local organizing committee, to care for until the XIII World Transplant Games in 2001. There was much cheering, and everyone was invited down onto the field for the customary closing activities.
To the sound of Beethoven's Ode to Joy, everyone came down onto the field and joined hands to form a line stretching out around the huge track. As more and more people joined in, the line became a circle of hands wrapping all the way around the track.
What a powerful image: hundreds of people from forty-some countries all over the world, linked by the common experience of transplantation, now physically linking hands to celebrate life!

As the music reached its dramatic climax, Mr. Slapak counted "One....Two...Three!" and everyone ran toward the center of the field, cheering and laughing.

Arriving at the crowd in the center of the field, you could see exhiliration and happiness mixed with some sadness at having to part from friends. There were hugs, tears, and cheers, and plenty of shirt-trading to commemorate this memorable week.

For me, it was the very best moment of the Games, one that symbolizes what it's all about: the joy of renewed life, made possible by generous donor families, and the happiness of sharing that with friends around the world.

That evening, after everyone had gotten gussied up, we all met again for the closing party, which concluded with fireworks and a moonlit boat ride on the Danube, from which we saw the lights of Budapest for the last time. It was a lovely, festive, fun conclusion to a wonderful week that no one wanted to end. Our memories and photographs will have to carry us until we meet again in two years in Japan.

Bon voyage to everyone!



XII World Transplant Games webcast front page Photo Gallery About the World Transplant Games Sponsors of the Webcast XII World Transplant Games webcast front page Sponsors of the Webcast Behind the Scenes Contact the Webcast Team Press Information Photo Gallery

Last modified: 11 May 2000