BARCELONA, Spain. August 2. SZAKADATI discusses the role of outsiders governing sports, the importance of athletes getting a good education and the sensitive issue where he believes Europe is lagging behind the USA…
SW: Many present and former athletes are concerned with the many politicians and outside businessmen coming in to run the sport. What is your opinion?
Laszlo Szakadati: For me, personally? I have nothing against it. I’m neutral. Sometimes an outside person can see things much differently, than those that are “boiling” in it for years on a day-to-day basis.
And let’s face the truth, we mentioned so many times the word “crisis”, on most occasions these people, whether politicians or businessman are desperately necessary because of their possibilities and capabilities in getting funding for the sport. In other words, sometimes one needs to make sacrifices to keep going.
All what I want to say here is that the right balance should be established as much as possible,
SW: How important is it for athletes to get an education? Is enough being done for scholarships and career advancement after their sport careers?
Laszlo Szakadati: Too put it simply: It is very important. Swimming (aquatics) is not the sport, where athletes have significant earnings from competitions like tennis and golf, where they can eventually develop a solid financial base for the future. Compared to other sports, where some stars can consciously build on such earning platforms, we are nowhere close to being able to do that. But, even if that would be the case, education shouldn’t be ignored or underestimated in any case, in my opinion.
Europe is far behind in encouraging athletes to get scholarships and to begin planning to pursue a career early, after swimming. Honestly, as far as I know, there is not too much done in this respect or the efforts are just sporadic and superficial. Also, as I think about it, there is not much discussion on the subject of the athletes’ post-sport career either. It needs to happen and to be a continual top priority.
Nevertheless, the topic is very sensitive, not only because of the education itself, but also for the preparation of the individual for his or her career in life after sports.
I am biased, and express that the US is far ahead on this topic, and has a good model to follow. However, we have to recognize, that such a system will never work in Europe, because of the different culture, traditions and habits.
SW: You have always stood up for athletes rights, getting a good education, in the many issues and battles that arose in the sport as the Executive Director of LEN, you stood on the side of uncompromised fairness and justice, what do you see yourself doing next?
Laszlo Szakadati: Well, I spent all my life in the aquatics world and once when I was younger, I went to work full time for the Hungarian Television Corporation. (I had done part time work for them over a number of years before).
I thought here is the other road! However, fate and a phone call from LEN bumped me back to the “usual track.”
Nevertheless, to be honest I still have somewhere in the back of my mind, very deeply hidden… the desire to do something totally different. Possibly, a new venture in a new environment.
If the right opportunity comes along…. Who knows? Like maybe something along the lines of working for the Arsenal Football Club? Or? (Pause)… Maybe, managing the Doobie Brothers. (Laughter…)
SW: Thank you for your time Mr. Szakadati. We at Swimming World, the athletes, coaches, officials and sport executives at the FINA 2013 Barcelona World Championships and around the world owe you a great deal of gratitude for your selfless and tireless service as Executive Director at LEN for over 14 years… Thank you very much. We appreciate it.
We wish you every success in your new endeavors. Please keep us informed.
Laszlo Szakadati: That you Steve. It’s been good. I’m enjoying watching the FINA 2013 Barcelona World Championships. They’re going really well. It’s been exciting. I’m going to go for a work out now, a run and a bike ride… Good talking to you and thanks again for your time.