Via a fascinating film and some high-quality live performances, the opening ceremony of the 62nd FIFA Congress at the Budapest Congress and World Trade Centre on 24 May took the form of a magnificent guided tour of the Hungarian capital. FIFA.com describes the highlights.
The tone for the evening was set by the traditional flag parade that opens every FIFA Congress, initiating a ceremony that shone a spotlight on some remarkable Hungarian artists. With the FIFA hymn playing in the background, the names of the 208 member associations were announced and their flags displayed on stage. This year, a Hungarian folk version of the hymn was performed by master violinist Felix Lajko.
Zsuzsa Demcsak, Hungarian model and MC for the evening, welcomed those present and invited FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter up onto the stage. “It's a pleasure to be here in majestic Budapest for the 62nd FIFA Congress. We have to go forward, you member associations asked us to do something at the last Congress. So we started some reforms and we will see what the first results are tomorrow. But that's the future, let's enjoy the present with this opening ceremony!” said the head of world football’s governing body.
The first part of ‘Journey’, a film showcasing Budapest, was then shown, accompanied by ‘Drum & Piano’, a musical performance by pianist Balazs Havasi and rock percussionist Endi.
The first four recipients of the FIFA Order of Merit were then called up to collect their prizes. Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah (Malaysia) received his award from AFC interim President Zhang Jilong, while Eric Ekue on behalf of his father Godfried Foli Ekue (Togo) and Winston Chung (Jamaica) received theirs from CAF President Issa Hayatou and CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb respectively.
Oscar Washington Tabarez (Uruguay) was unfortunately unable to attend, so Uruguay FA President Sebastian Bauza was on hand to pick up the accolade on his behalf from CONMEBOL President Nicolas Leoz.
The film continued where it left off, with the live soundtrack this time being provided by opera singer Erika Miklosa, who performed music from the operetta Csardaskiralyno. Budapest Mayor Istvan Tarlos was next to speak, declaring that: “Budapest is sometimes known as a city of history, of bridges, of spas, of culture, of universities. It even used to be a capital of football in the mid 1950s. Now with the new FA President, something new has emerged again. Football has always been special for Hungary, a game which gives us joy and strengthens our people to feel together. Football is uniting!”
Although few people are aware of the fact, the Rubik’s Cube was invented by a Hungarian. It was the inspiration for the subsequent performance, a 3D dance featuring the world-famous puzzle, which accompanied the third instalment of the film.
Following that, Hari Raj Naicker (Fiji) was awarded the FIFA Order of Merit by OFC President David Chung, as was Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder (Germany) and Gyorgy Szepesi (Hungary), who were handed their prizes by UEFA President Michel Platini and FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke respectively. Szepesi said: “I am deeply moved and I wish to thank President Blatter for this great award, which I am very pleased to receive in Budapest, my hometown.”
Ferenc Cako was the next artist to make an appearance, charming the audience with his extraordinary sand animation.
The final speaker was none other than Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who stated that: “Since the Second World War, we have never had such an important sport/political event. Sport is made to unify people, not to divide them. Football teaches us everything - team spirit, capacity to fight.” He added that: “We are trying to build a country where fair play is a strength not a weakness in Hungary, like in football. I wish this Congress is a milestone for you but for Hungary too”, before the final part of ‘Journey’ was broadcast in tandem with ExperiDance’s Hungarian folk ballet.