In his speech at the ceremony, the Prime Minister highlighted: “You have not only achieved an unparalleled success for Hungary, but have also increased out reputation in the world at large. Because an athlete at the Olympic Games is always also an ambassador of the country they represent. And you did an excellent job of that”, he added.
He said the sensational success of speed skating sport was achieved because the athletes believed in it and worked hard for it. Everyone made their own contribution, added their own experience and professional skills, and took their share of risks.
Mr. Orbán pointed out in recent years Hungarians have achieved outstanding results in sports, the arts and science alike, and it is well worth pursuing this path towards being among the world’s frontrunners.
The Prime Minister also highlighted that Hungary’s Olympic athletes “competed with giants”: the resources at their disposal are not even comparable to theirs, because for instance while China is building 2,000 indoor ice rinks and there are 7,000 in Canada, Hungary has only 150 registered skaters and 22 indoor ice rinks. “The Government would like there to be at least one indoor ice rink in every city with county rights, and a dozen in Budapest”, he explained.
Mr. Orbán said that in his view it was a wise decision to elevate speed skating to the rank of sports that are awarded priority funding. “While the Association received HUF 70 million in state funding prior to 2010, their funding has since increased more than ten-fold, and it has now been proven that this was money well spent”, he pointed out.
He said the Cabinet had decided on the construction of a national skating centre, which will accommodate four ice hockey rinks, a speed skating rink and a skating academy. He underlined the final tally of the Winter Olympic Games, which is 15 Olympic points and “an extremely likeable team”.
According to the Prime Minister, the Olympic athletes “dared to forge ambitious plans”, to dream that even the Hungarians can become a skating nation, and they achieved their goal. A sports-loving nation provided secure foundations for the athletes’ training, and the Hungarian people have every reason to say: “We won. We won an Olympic gold medal”, he declared.
The Silver Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit (civil class) was conferred upon short track speed skaters Sára Luca Bácskai, Bernadett Heidum, Petra Jászapáti, Andrea Keszler and Zsófia Kónya who came fourth in their event. The Officer’s Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit (civil class) was given to Ákos Bánhidi, coach of the national team and team manager of the Hungarian Olympic short track speed skating team, and to Jing Zhang, head coach of the Hungarian Olympic short track speed skating team.
The Officer’s Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit (civil class) was also conferred upon short track speed skaters Csaba Burján, Viktor Knoch, Shaoang Liu and Sándor Shaolin Liu “in recognition of their Olympic title, which is a landmark event in Hungarian sports history, and of their other outstanding results”.