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World Games,
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Let the Games Begin!
Story by Eleanor Jones
Photography by Robert Garypie, Peter Ottlakan, and Ferenc Biro
Audio by
Douglas Armstrong

free player

parade of teams
(Hungarian with English translation)
(Hungarian with English translation)
traditional Hungarian songs
Hungarian folkdancing music

Late in a sunny afternoon, buses carrying all the teams arrived at the staging area near Heroes' Square. The Australian, British, Pakistani and Thai teams stood ready to parade into the square, passing the time by posing for photographs and visiting with the other teams. Local children prepared to take part in this special occasion by marching before each team, carrying a sign with the country's name written in Hungarian on one side and English on the reverse.

As the early Autumn sun slid lower in the sky, the temperature gradually fell from about 75 degrees Fahrenheit down toward 70. A light breeze from the east brought "lamb's wool" clouds, turning the sky from blue toward grey. No matter; the excitement of the participants was not in the least dampened.

As marches played on the sound system, horsemen in 19th century calvary costumes rode to the edge of the square, and then stood on either side of the parade of teams as they entered the square.



The ceremony was opened by Zsuzsa Csisztu, a well-known Hungarian gymnast, and was translated throughout into English. Ms. Csisztu began the ceremony by introducing Team USA, Great Britain, then Australia (waving their Aussie-style hats), and so on, in alphabetical order according to the Hungarian spelling of the country's name. "Say 'Shalom' to Israel!" Each team's flag was added to the stands on the stage.


Cheers went up from the crowd with each team's entrance, and all were applauded. Each team was attired in their patriotically colored uniforms. When a one-person team came by, he got extra applause, so he removed his hat and took a big bow. The French team sang their anthem while parading, and the Uruguayans had two big drums, which they beat in a celebratory fashion while chanting "Uruguay! Uruguay!" Accompanied by the march music playing on the large speakers, the Italians waved small flags, as did many other teams. As teams formed a large group in the middle of the square, they would cheer each other, wave, and smile.
Following a Games tradition, the host country's team entered the Square last, to large applause, and the ceremony proper began.

The first speaker was Tamás Deutsch, Minister of Youth and Sports, who welcomed everyone to Hungary, which is famous for its hospitality. He made the point that the Games are not just for those who've already had transplants, but also for those who are waiting for transplants, so that they will take courage from witnessing this event. "It is a great opportunity for the disabled sick people to show themselves and the world what great achievements they are capable of."

The banner ceremony followed, in which the Games banner was formally raised over the proceedings.

Famous Hungarian boxer István Kovács (known as "Koko," at right in photo) and Hungarian athlete (and local organizing committee member) Judit Berente read the athlete's oath, Koko in Hungarian, and Ms. Berente in English. Koko's presence caused quite a stir; he graciously posed for many photographs and signed autographs for the crowd.

Maurice Slapak, President of the World Transplant Games Federation, began by addressing the gathering in Hungarian, which was a big hit with the crowd. He wished the competitors well, especially as their presence in Heroes' Square represents a dream come true. In February 1999, the Hungarians said "Yes, you can come to Hungary, even though we only have six months to prepare." Mr. Slapak noted that donation rates rose thirty percent in Australia as a result of the 1997 World Transplant Games held there. He urged us to remember "We're here to compete, we're here to enjoy, and also you are here to show the benefit of a generous gift, and to say thank you in the best and most lasting way to all those who gave."

Professor Ferenc Perner, of the Hungary Society of Transplantation, mentioned that Hungary is honored to host these Games for a second time, the first having been eight years ago. He spoke of the advances in the field of transplantation since that time, and said that over 3,000 people had since received transplants in Hungary.

Professor Perner explained that there were several options raised when the Netherlands local organizing committee announced that they would not be able to host the Games; one option was to delay until 2000 and relocate to Sydney, but it was felt that despite the war nearby and the short preparation time, they felt it was more important not to disappoint the athletes, whom he wished well. He also apologized in advance for any organizational difficulties the attendees may experience due to the short preparation time.

Next we were treated to several folk music pieces performed by a vocal ensemble accompanied by musicians playing the traditional stringed instrument (a "lant") and a percussion instrument (a "csorgo") similar to a tambourine. This hauntingly beautiful music is quite ancient and truly made us feel we were in Hungary.

To cap the festivities, colorfully costumed folk dancers then took the stage, performing three traditional dances, accompanied by two violinists, a cellist, and a bassist.


Following the ceremony, everyone walked over to Vajdahunyad Castle, just east of Heroes' Square. While the sun went down on this medieval castle grounds, the athletes in their colorful uniforms congregated. Under festive tents a huge variety of little Hungarian sandwiches, desserts, and other foods and drinks were offered. The athletes and their friends and family members mingled with other participants, talking, laughing, and engaging in the ever-popular pin-trading, while a live band played dance music, including the "Macarena."
We owe the Hungarians many thanks for arranging such a nice welcome to Budapest, and a beautiful start to the Games.
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