We talked to Iván Rózsa, director of communications of the 2019 European Maccabi Games.
– How and when were you approached by the organizers regarding the games?
– It happened in 2015. I met Péter Stern and Ádám Jusztin about the games. I knew Ádám before, since I played basketball with MAFC and at the time, he was already playing in the NB I with Szolnok. We had also met before, in 1993 at the Maccabiah in Israel, which is still one of the most significant experiences I have ever had. Entering a stadium with 10 thousand supporters is something I will never forget. When Ádám and Péter approached me, Budapest and Basel were in the running to be the host of the games. My task was to continue their intensive lobbying work with the help of communication tools, while preparing a presentation for the congress.. We worked together with Isobar agency and wanted to present what the games could mean to our country and to our Jewish community. We did exactly what we intended to do: instead of focusing on the past’s sorrows, we looked into the future. The rest is history: the members of three generations were standing along Ágnes Keleti on stage – that was the moment I knew we would earn the right to host the 2019 European Maccabi Games.
– What are your tasks within the organization?
– As with every other sporting event, we have to talk to the athletes, team members, the organizing communities, the volunteers and – of course – the public. These are our main challenges aside from the communication tasks related to the event itself. By the public, I am mostly referring to the Jewish community, but the event is also a great opportunity to show them to the general public, while also dispelling any stereotypes. The event itself transcends sports, since the cultural programs will be just as important as the sporting events. It is an honour to work with people like Balázs Gábor, former president of the Jewish Cultural Institution. My task – along with Gábor – is to make sure that every message and program is about breaking away from the past. Naturally, we will always value our roots, but I believe that the games will have to comply to modern „start-up” standards, which currently raised Israel to a secondary „tech-headquarters” status alongside Silicon Valley. We are far from that and we will have to create a website, social media activity and other solutions that advertise this. We are talking about a very small team in terms of organization, but with enthusiasm, we can make up for a lot of things.
– How will the tasks change with the games coming closer?
– At the moment, we are phrasing our messages, planning the mascot and the identity of the games and doing many other things that are not visible to the public. As the games approach, the operative tasks will become more relevant. Our responsibility is to spread the word along with the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities and ensure that even the youngest people are aware of this event. We have to start the relevant communications on social media and we have to visit the Jewish communities and show them why it is great to be a part of such a monumental occasion.
– How many people are working under your control?
– It looks much more like a voluntary organization than a hierarchic one, which means that everybody helps one-another and some people even use their free-time to work for us. As the event gets closer and closer, this will change of course, many tasks cannot be done like a hobby, such as managing our social media channels. The organization’s full-time colleagues are real professional and they help us create a framework that the rest of the people follow.
– What kinds of messages do we have to deliver to the people who are not aware of the Maccabi movement?
– It might be an exaggeration to call it a movement as there are fundamental disbeliefs in terms of Judaism itself. We want to make sure that, when someone thinks of a Jewish person, the first thing that comes to their mind is not an old man with a large nose. The European Maccabi Games can help change this notion, and we will introduce our former and active Jewish Olympians, starting with Alfréd Hajós, Sterck Laura, a karateka who will be one of the faces of the games as she is not only an exceptional athlete, but also a fantastic person.
– What kind of results do you expect from the Hungarian athletes?
– Similar to the Olympics, our country is very successful in the European and World Maccabi Games despite its size. I expect us to do well in the combat sports and the traditionally strong Hungarian events, such as water polo and fencing. The most important thing is to have the largest ever Hungarian delegation.