Did you know...as of 2016, Hungary ranks 8th in the world in medals at the Summer Olympic Games despite its being torn apart after WWI and losing half her population and 2/3 of her territory. This does not include an additional 6 medals won in the Winter Olympics nor the Hungarians that won medals as nationals of other countries after borders were redrawn or after large-scale emigration.
The beginnings of the Olympic movement in Hungary go back further than the Games in Athens. Ferenc Kemeny, a great pacifist and member of the International Peace Bureau, was one of Pierre de Coubertin's first kindred spirits, with whom he struck up a friendship in the 1880's.
Kemeny took an active part in the Congress for the re-establishment of the Games held in Paris in 1894 and was one of the founding members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Coubertin supported Kemeny's suggestion to hold the first Olympics in Budapest in 1896 in honor of Hungary's 1000 years of statehood. While the dream of hosting an Olympics is not yet realized, Hungary has won more Olympic medals than any other nation that has never hosted the Games.
Hungary in the Olympics - Select a Year:
Coubertin had supported Kemény 's suggestion to hold the first Olympics in Budapest in 1896 in honor of Hungary's 1000 years of statehood. But the symbolism of spawning a new Olympic era in Athens meant Hungary would have to wait until 1920 when it was promised the Games. The founders of the Olympic Movement all hoped sports and the Games would supercede politics. Sadly, a year earlier, the 1920 Games were switched to Antwerp as Hungary was not welcome to participate after WWI, a war Hungary did not want and would cost her far more than a missed chance to host the Games.
The punitive and ill-conceived Treaty of Trianon ended the war but cost Hungary 2/3 of her territory and half her population, 1/3 of which were ethnic Hungarian. Not only was a huge pool of athletic talent cut off from the mother country, the now small, weak Hungary would not be able to resist future Soviet expansion. In a twist of Olympic fate, a now Soviet-dominated Hungary would bow to pressure and boycott the Los Angeles Games in 1984.
One thousand years of nation building successfully delineated groups in Central and Eastern Europe on culture, religion, geography, and other attributes, creating many historic nation-states. While some Western European nations would continue power struggles and princely battles and civil wars, Hungary, founded in 896, was a peaceful multi-ethnic state for a 1000 years and her borders were unchanged.... Until 1920 where new states were drawn by Western powers aiming to expand their own hegemony rather than respect the right to self-determination.
These "Hungarian Olympic Triumph" pages contain many examples of Hungarian Olympic Champions that were born within the boundaries of historic Hungary. But many of these cities, towns, and villages are no longer within Hungary. Historic communities declined. Forced removals such as the Benes Decrees and other pograms, the effects of WWI, and Trianon in 1920 ethnic cleansing, and continued pressure and discriminative policies such as the 2009 Slovak Language Law, continue to take their toll. Ironically, Ferenc Kemeny, one of the founders of the Olympic Movement and the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) first Secretary, was born in Nagybecskerek, Hungary in what is now known as Zrenjanin in the Vojvodina part of Serbia after the Treaty of Trianon.
Read more about the Treaty of Trianon and see AHF Statements:
At the time President Wilson said: “The proposal to dismember Hungary is absurd” and later Sir Winston Churchill said: “Ancient poets and theologians could not imagine such suffering, which Trianon brought to the innocent.” I am sad to report that they were right.
Ethnic Distribution in the Kingdom of Hungary in 1910 (Hungarians shown in red)
Hungarian populations declined significantly after forced removals such as the Benes Decrees and other pograms, the effects of WWI, and Trianon in 1920. With continued pressure and discriminative policies such as the 2009 Slovak Language Law, this trend continued over the past 90 years.