Jewish athletes competing in Hungary honor 1st Jewish Olympic champion
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Jewish athletes competing in Hungary honor 1st Jewish Olympic champion

Alfred Hajos won two gold medals in swimming at the 1896 games in Athens, the first modern edition of the sporting contest; went on to become an architect

Hungarian architect and Olympic champion Alfred Hajos, 72, dives into the Margaret Island Pool, Budapest, which he designed and for which he won a golden diploma (AP Photo)
Hungarian architect and Olympic champion Alfred Hajos, 72, dives into the Margaret Island Pool, Budapest, which he designed and for which he won a golden diploma (AP Photo)

Athletes participating in the European Maccabi Games are scheduled to unveil in Budapest a new commemorative headstone at the grave of the first Jewish Olympic champion, Alfred Hajos.

The ceremony will take place Wednesday at the Hungarian capital’s Kozma Street Jewish Cemetery, according to a statement published on Saturday night by the organizers of the Maccabi Europe Games, a Jewish sporting event that is held every four years and that this year is being hosted in Hungary.

One participant, marathon runner Peter Hajdú, 65, is running 331 miles from Prague over 10 days to the opening ceremony Tuesday.

Hajos, born Arnold Guttman, was a swimmer, soccer player and architect who won the swimming competition of the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, the first modern edition of the Olympics. He competed and won in two out of three Olympic swimming events, freestyle 100 meters and 200 meters, which were held in the chilly waters of the Mediterranean Sea in early April.

It made Hajos, who died in 1955, both the first Jewish Olympic champion and the first Hungarian one.

The third contest, freestyle 500 meters, was held too close to the first two for Hajos to recuperate and compete. It was won by Paul Neumann, a Jew from Austria who became that country’s first Olympic champion. He died in 1932.

World class chess player Judit Polgar of Hungary, speaks to a colleague, on the opening day of the International Chess tournament in Biel, Switzerland, July 21, 2007. (KEYSTONE/ Peter Schneider via AP)

The week-long event that opened Monday features delegations from across Europe competing in some 20 categories, including chess. The game’s ceremonial flame will be lit by Judit Polgar, a Hungarian-Jewish grandmaster who is widely considered the strongest female chess player alive.

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