LGBTQ SPORTS IN HUNGARY – A HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The situation of the LGBTQ people and their rights in Hungary has always been somewhere between the very developed and open-minded part of Europe and the less developed and more conservative part of the continent. Homosexual acts have not been punished since 1961. The first gay organization was founded already in 1988, and after the political changes in 1989 and the first democratic elections in 1990 several LGBTQ organizations were established, and LGBTQ life started to get organized and flourish mostly in Budapest first,and later in bigger towns too. Pride parades have been held since 1998.

 

The first organized LGBTQ sports activities started in 1991 with enthusiastic hikers of Vándor Mások (The Hiking Others), and their programs have been popular since then. In the late 1990s and early 2000s trainings and meetings were held mostly in an unofficial way for swimmers, runners, dancers, players badminton, handball, volleyball, basketball and football. There were hundreds of athletes involved in these unofficial activities. More and more Hungarians participated in Gay Games, EuroGames and smaller international tournaments in the early 2000s and there was an increased need for an official umbrella organization coordinating all sports. The first official registered Hungarian LGBTQ sport association was founded in 2004 with the name Atlasz Sportegyesület. The association joined the EGLSF, the European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation in the next year. The already existing registered Hungarian LGBTQ associations like Háttér, Labrisz and Szimpozion were helping a lot before, during and after the foundation process. A lot of financial and associational support came also from abroad, mostly from the Dutch Embassy, the Bavarian sport club Team München and the Dutch sport club NatUtrecht.

 

München 2004 was the first EuroGames where the Hungarian team participated with more than 50 athletes on the opening ceremony. München was a milestone for many athletes giving inspiration for volunteer work and enthusiasm in sports for the following years. Many were also inspired by the General Assembly of the EGLSF in 2006 first ever held in a former Eastern European country. Apart from the regular sport trainings Atlasz Sport Club became more and more active in organizing popular and visible events for athletes and their friends. The annual open Sport Day and the parties afterwards attracted hundreds of people. Atlasz was involved in hosting several unofficial basketball, handball and badminton tournaments and was helping hosting the first same sex dance tournament in 2006. Atlasz was always visible also during the Budapest Pride Parades, and was hosting workshops, sport events, street parties during the pride weekends.  Atlasz representatives were often visible in the media. The first official LGBTQ multi-sport tournament “Budapest Splash” was held in 2008 with swimming, handball and badminton, and the Splash tournament became a popular summer ending event in the LGBTQ sport calendar. Unfortunately, it had a very short life organized only in 2009 and 2010 afterwards. Organizers of the Splash Tournaments got busy with the next big historical event, the EuroGames.

 

The first EuroGames ever held in a former Eastern European country was hosted in the Hungarian capital in 2012.  It was mostly organized by volunteers, who were former Atlasz Sport Club activists, who left their old club and joined another organization, FRIGO which ended up hosting the EuroGames in Budapest. Though in the meanwhile the political climate had changed a lot in the country, the organizers decided not to give up all the work, energy and money invested in the preparation work of many years. With a record high budget for security, with the very low number of Hungarian athletes Budapest EuroGames hosted 1500 athletes in 12 different sports and 1000 visitors from all over the world. The tremendous work was done mostly by the almost 150 very young volunteers. Though the EuroGames is still the biggest international LGBTQ event ever hosted in Hungary, we were unfortunately not able to achieve a real breakthrough in the LGBTQ sport activism in the country. Hopefully this will change in the future.

 

Hundreds of Hungarian athletes have been involved in organized LGBTQ sport activities and thousands of LGBTQ athletes have visited Hungary for tournaments in the last 15 years. Thanks to the official and registered tournaments and especially to the EuroGames, LGBTQ sports has received a lot of publicity in the country: news, TV shows, magazines were dealing with the issue.  Still no professional athlete has ever come out in Hungary showing hope and role model for younger professional athletes. On the recreational level there have been many possibilities for a free and open-minded sport environment. On the professional level LGBTQ athletes still decide to remain in the closet, and the issue is kept on a very low profile.

 

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