Showtime During the Pandemic. A Review of the LEN European Aquatics Championships 2021 in Budapest

We recently reviewed the 2021 FINA Diving World Cup in Tokyo early this May. After that event, many European teams proceeded directly to the LEN European Aquatics Championships 2021 in Budapest, Hungary. This event started merely three days after the end of the World Cup in Japan.

DUNA arena diving pool
DUNA ARENA – diving pool

Here, the key features of the European Championships, its differences from the World Cup, and how organizers managed to make a real show for aquatics enthusiasts will be explained.

The LEN European Aquatics Championships is held once every two years and includes not several disciplines – swimming, artistic swimming, diving, and open water swimming. The organizers created a bubble of several hotels, the Duna Arena, and an open water location. In all, there were over 3,000 people in the bubble.

Naturally, we could not ignore the opportunity to hear what the elite athletes from diving had to say about the event. You can find the full video of the interview below.

 

The sports4world editorial staff, following the established criteria, will highlight the key points of the championship, giving ratings to each of these areas. Our assessment is our personal, subjective opinion, not the opinion of the athletes or third parties.

Arrival. 9 out of 10

At the airport, everyone arriving for the European Aquatics Championships got a “green corridor.” The procedure was pretty simple: present the LEN invitation, a PCR test done 48 hours before arrival, and personal documents. No paperwork, additional tests, or installation of mobile applications. Everything happened as fast as possible, the natural “European way.” Claiming luggage and the transfer to the hotel went as quickly and comfortably as possible. There is nothing to discuss here – high score.

Transfer to the hotel. 9 out of 10

The transfer from the airport to the hotel and vice versa took only 30 minutes. Fast and easy. The driver even speaks English. There is nothing more to say.

All Systems Go for the Ukrainian Open Diving Cup 2021

Accommodation. 5 out of 10

Although the hotel had a stunning view of the most picturesque Margaret Island, there were some issues faced by various teams. Some of these complaints include cold rooms, awfully slow Wi-Fi, and rusty and cold water in the bathroom. At first, people thought that the water was coming from the hot spring, but it turned out that it was only due to the rooms not being used for a long time. And the water warmed up only three hours later! All this caused many questions that needed to be urgently solved. Two days later, a solution to some issues was found, but the sediments in the water remained. In the last two days, the housekeeping decided not to clean our apartments. They didn’t even change the towels at all.

Food. 8 out of 10

After the Japanese food teams had to endure at the World Cup, food in Budapest seemed incredible – a buffet, an abundance of fruits, vegetables, meat, drinks, and a complete, flexible meal schedule. Among the shortcomings, though, including the hot drinks (coffee, tea) which were available only in the morning. Also, tables may only seat one person – a restriction likely brought about by the pandemic. But it was definitely special that there was an excellent buffet right in the pool. There seems to be no such variety of drinks, fruits, and snacks in the recent editions.

Pool. 7 out of 10

The competition itself took place in the beautiful pool Duna Arena which hosted the FINA World Championships in 2017! However, the absence of typical dryland provisions was upsetting. In comparison with Kyiv, the hall in Tokyo seemed very modest, but no one thought that in Budapest, athletes would only have mats, wood boxes, and rugs. This is literally “better than nothing at all.” An impromptu dry lounge was available on schedule behind the pool screen. Access to the gym was denied.

Volunteers. 7 out of 10

The situation with English language proficiency was much better than in Japan. However, the absence of the main centre for informing volunteers was also felt. Almost every volunteer had their versions of different concerns or issues. Only those who could solve a real, albeit insignificant, problem could essentially run the competition. In reality, volunteers at the European Championships had only one working function – to remind everyone to “please put on your mask.”

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Organization of competitions. 9 out of 10

Another category that merits a high score! LEN never ceases to amaze everyone. This time, Marco and his team took the presentation part of the competition to a completely different level! Hundreds of screens, laser shows, and music screensavers during the performance and diving deserved nothing but rejoice. In the Mixed Zone, journalists interviewed the medalists through an iPad – that is, only the athlete was physically present. Of course, there were minor issues in the competitive aspect that is more connected to the technical side, but what event does not have any?

Broadcasting and media. 9 out of 10

One of the best TV presentations for a diving event. LEN also launched a mobile application with statistics and media to quickly get all the necessary information. Despite this, there were problems with delivering the broadcast to viewers in the early days which sports fans complained about.

Transport. 3 out of 10

The biggest problem of all championships is related to transportation. Many teams were facing them, especially from the pool to the hotel. One group of delegates got tired of waiting for a bus for 40 minutes and decided to walk to the hotel. The team was given an ultimatum – to either return and wait for the bus or face the disqualification of the entire team. As a result, the organizers sent a whole motorcade of minibusses for the team. The organizers admitted their shortcoming and the collapse of the transport system of the entire championship, but, ultimately, they were not able to work it out quickly. Changes in the schedule and the transport system continued for almost the whole competition week, as did the queues for the bus from the pool to the hotel.

COVID protocol and medical personnel. 7 out of 10

Upon arrival at the hotel, we were immediately sent to take a PCR test. The first problem is the very slow registration and the registration process. In Japan, the delivery of the antigen test for a team of 20 people took no more than 5 minutes. In Hungary, it took about an hour. The reason why it was such a slow process was because the local medical university provided free tests, and naturally, students did the work. After a long flight from Japan, such expectations are painful for the team, but everyone understands that it can not be otherwise. After passing the test, everyone was asked to stay in their rooms for 5 hours until the PCR test results came. After that, PCR tests for COVID-19 were taken twice more over the next ten days. At the World Cup in Tokyo, there were daily saliva tests – both are not particularly annoying, probably because everyone is already used to it.

Overall impression. 7 out of 10

LEN always organizes its competitions very smoothly and nicely. LEN is strict and scrupulous about the organization at all stages. However, the local organizing committee does not always carry out all the tasks, and this time was no exception. Nevertheless, despite the current realities in the context of a global pandemic, the European Championship was a success! And being its participant, I don’t even want to think that the COVID-19 protocol will hinder the daily routine of international competitions as this will become the norm.

Edited by Aldo Tong

Previously: Is Tokyo Ready to Host the Olympic Games? A Review of the FINA Diving World Cup 2021 – Japan

About the author

Tokmachov Iaroslav
Founder & CEO of sports4world.com
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