Eager to race: 51 out of 52 countries send athletes to Budapest
A participation record is on the horizon at the 2021 European Aquatics Championships as all but one LEN Member Federations will send their respective athletes to Budapest. In the Duna Arena everything is set for the competitions in artistic swimming and diving in the first week and in swimming in the second week. A new venue, Lake Lupa will welcome the continent’s top open water swimmers. LEN offers free live streaming from every session during the upcoming fortnight.
European Aquatics return to its roots once more: 95 years after the first edition, Budapest hosts LEN’s top showcase for the fifth time, a record (this is the sixth edition of the big Europeans in Hungary). Interestingly, this is going to be the first one to be staged indoors as the previous four were all held in the summer sunshine in 1926, 1958, 2006 and 2010. The magnificent Duna Arena, built for the 2017 World Championships, will be the venue for swimming, diving and artistic swimming, while a new site, the nearby Lake Lupa was chosen for the open water races.
“LEN is grateful for the Hungarian Government, especially the Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is a true friend of sports, for its outstanding support” LEN President Paolo Barelli said. “Our thanks also go for the Hungarian Swimming Association for organising our largest event during such extraordinary times we live in.
” The extraordinary times will be mirrored during the championships by the empty stands. Due to the pandemic, LEN and the local organisers agreed to hold the event behind closed doors, in a bubble. Inside, the moves of all participants, teams, LEN officials, volunteers, security personnel, media and even the on-field crew members of the host broadcaster are strictly restricted to the hotels and the venues. Also, everyone has to undergo regular testing to guarantee a Covid-free environment – this Sunday the count stands at 3028 for the so-called Zone-1 accreditations.
“Today this is the only way to organise such a large-scale event but I am sure, that despite all measures and strict protocols, our fantastic athletes will come up with outstanding performances” Paolo Barelli said. “Let me thank them their commitment as they had to train amidst extraordinary circumstances. Similarly, LEN is extremely grateful for all coaches, officials and for each National Federation that even during these challenging times they did their utmost to keep up the desired level in their everyday activities. This dedication makes Europe the leading continent in aquatics” the President added.
“If we look at the entries, we see that everyone is eager to compete” Mr Barelli said. “24-25 nations entered to for diving, artistic swimming and open water respectively, and despite the still existing lockdown measures throughout the continent, a record of 51 nations are to take part in the swimming competitions. LEN is really proud that we could welcome all our athletes, the leading aquatic stars and offer them a racing opportunity of the highest standards at the European Aquatics Championships.”
President of the Hungarian Swimming Association and head of the organising committee, Sandor Wladar (who won his backstroke European titles exactly 40 years ago) said that cancelling the event was never a real option.
“The Hungarian Government offered outstanding support in all fields and that made this event possible – something we and the LEN Family should be grateful for” he said. “We never really considered the option of cancellation, always believed that we could welcome the LEN Family in Budapest – and now it becomes reality. We are close to the finish line, or, as a former swimmer, may I say: to the wall. Soon we touch it – but this effort can only be a success if all participants offer its contribution and support since we are maintaining the largest bubble the sporting world has seen so far as we need to take care of three thousand people inside.”
Wladar added that even though the restrictions, the rigid protocols and the regular testing could be annoying, this also prepares the athletes for the Olympics. “In Tokyo, they will meet even stricter rules, daily testing so this event is also a great opportunity to learn to live in a bubble and what this requires from an individual. Believe me, it can be challenging sometimes so the European Championships is not the only top-level meet before the Olympics where the athletes can test themselves in the pool but it can also prepare them to get used to the circumstances they may face at the Games.”
The championships will follow the usual schedule, the competitions in artistic swimming and diving kick off on Monday and last till Sunday (10-16 May), while the open water races are scheduled from Wednesday till Sunday. Then comes the big show, on 17-23 May the swimming races will be staged – and not only the athletes are hungry for racing but the TVs too. With one day to go, LEN’s top partner Eurovision shared the news that 31 national broadcasters signed up to offer live coverage from Budapest – but LEN’s free live streaming, with on-site English commentary, can be followed all over the world too.
For free live streaming and more, visit the LEN website
For detailed schedules, entry lists, starts lists and results, go here