The Grand Slam Hungary is about to begin, as the draw took place on Thursday October 22 in Budapest. IJF President, Mr. Marius L. Vizer, answered our questions on this very special occasion.
Marius L. Vizer (center) during the official draw of Grand Slam Hungary

How has your life been, as IJF President, over the last 8 months ?

Marius Vizer: I have had the same worries as all members of the judo family, including the health of my own family and also the health of our judo community. My over-riding objective has been to establish safe protocols to be able to continue our judo lives at all levels, from Judo for Children and Judo For Peace projects, to local club activity and all the way to the World Judo Tour. This has been a monumental task but we are making progress and will continue to invest our energies in meeting this goal. Judo must live; this has been my personal and professional goal for the last eight months.

How did you manage to get the plan for GS Hungary accepted both locally and internationally?

Marius Vizer: We have been working non-stop to make sure that we can create and endorse a proper plan for GS Hungary. Even if we couldn’t physically meet, we had an incredible amount of exchange and meeting to make sure that we could organise an event as soon as possible, while respecting the safety of everyone, strictly. Our EC members and staff have been fully involved and committed to that goal. Internationally speaking, we knew that all countries were eager to resume their competitive season, so it was not difficult to convince them to come to Budapest and the number of countries and athletes registered shows that we were right. Locally speaking, we had to show that we could organise the event while respecting the safety and health of everyone.

Why was it so important to resume the World Judo Tour?

Marius Vizer: Fighting back against Covid-19 is a complex idea. We have to stay safe first, but we also have to live and within that we must live healthily. Judo and sport in general contribute to the health of all people and with that comes the responsibility to inspire. The World Judo Tour offers inspiration for all stakeholders and spectators and highlights the very best athletes of our sport. It is also important to continue with our path to the Olympic Games. Now we have to live with Covid-19 and not live as if it doesn’t exist. This is exactly what we are doing with Grand Slam Hungary.

We have seen in these recent months that you have been in touch with many organisations, such as the IOC. How was that cooperation?

Marius Vizer: The IOC has an incredibly challenging remit, to push forward with the Tokyo Olympic Games amid such a global health crisis. They’re decision-makers, policy-writers and leaders and their input is fundamental to the success of this Olympic cycle. They have provided a framework in which we can build our sport’s unique protocols and we are doing all we can to follow and assist them. During this difficult time the only option we have is working together. We have been in close contact with the IOC for many months. We are supporting them and they are supporting us: ‘Stronger together.’ This is why both organisations chose that motto to guide the way through the pandemic.

What kind of task force did you put in place for GS Hungary?

Marius Vizer: For many months we have been working on creating the conditions to resume our season, having been on hold since March. With increased intensity in recent weeks, we have, together with the Hungarian Judo Federation and the Hungarian authorities, created a task force specially dedicated to the organisation of the event. It’s not an easy task but we are accustomed to meeting challenges. As our headquarters is in Hungary, we have many staff members who are already present in the country. They are all deeply involved. We also have people all over the world who are fully committed to making sure that everything goes smoothly.

What can be said about delegations that can not attend GS Hungary for health or financial reasons?

Marius Vizer: Within pre-Covid calendars there have always been challenges of this kind. We will continue to support developing nations where we can and will work hard to keep the playing field as level as possible. Fairplay is a large part of our judo values and we will do all we can in that regard. However, we must begin. It is time to take steps forward within our new normal.

What are your expectations in terms of the staging of the Hungary Grand Slam?

Marius Vizer: I expect the highest standards of professionalism in all areas, with delegations doing all they can to abide by safety protocols, so that we can continue to deliver our World Judo Tour. Our IJF team is working so hard to establish new routines that facilitate excellence and safety and I have no doubt their efforts will be rewarded. I also expect to see, once again, an incredible level of performance on the tatami, with our athletes showing why judo is so special. They will showcase the best of judo; I am 100% behind them and am also eager to see the fruits of their dedication in this very difficult period.

How key has the relationship with the Hungarian goverment been, in terms of organising such an important event?

Marius Vizer: The Hungarian government is of course in a very challenging position, but we have been met with only friendship and professionalism. Their commitment to our goals has been visible in all conversations and we are grateful to them for this relationship.

How will the necessary health protocols impact the organisation of the event?

Marius Vizer: Whatever the impact of our new procedures, it remains necessary. Health and safety will always be our number one concern. This is non-negotiable. All delegations must comply or choose to not take part. Our responsibility is to provide a safe environment for our staff, local organisers, coaches and athletes and we will do that.

How do you see judo playing a role in this special situation?

Marius Vizer: Judo is centred around values that put people first. We can demonstrate that sport at the highest level is still possible, while keeping all participants safe, through cooperation and an attention to detail that promotes health alongside progress. Judo can offer hope and show clearly that we will recover; we are fighting Covid head-on. In judo we learn how to take advantage of our opponent’s weaknesses. We believe that if we can't fight directly against Covid-19, which is the domain of scientists and doctors across the world, we can fight against the consequences of today’s health crisis, by helping to bring back hope, mutual benefit and friendship in everything we do. Once we can achieve that, we’ll be able to live a better life with or without Covid-19, which will be a clear victory.

What is the future of judo with Covid-19?

Marius Vizer: Judo is adaptable at heart, with a community of problem-solvers all over the world. We are resilient and gradually as we find ways to work within new situations, we will see a return to the global projects and participation we enjoyed before. New protocols and policies are necessary but we, as a sport, are capable of implementing all necessary changes. We have been patient and hard-working and we will continue to be both, working towards a more recognisable sporting life.

How do you feel, as a judoka, having an opportunity to attend a life judo event?

Marius Vizer: Personally, I am looking forward to again being surrounded by the judo family, to feel proud of our team and our athletes, with all they have endured in recent months. I want to hear judo, I want to see judo and I want to feel judo. There is nothing better than champions from all over the world gathering, in the best conditions possible, to enjoy their passion. As President of the International Judo Federation, I also feel the need to be cautious and focussed on the safety of everyone.

For the first time we will have an event without spectators. What is being done to ensure the media can be included and coverage can satisfy everyone involved?

Marius Vizer: For obvious reasons, there can not be spectators within the venue, but this doesn’t mean that we won’t have spectators at all. We are working tirelessly to make sure that we can offer a very high standard of coverage. We have been doing everything possible to provide the best images to our TV partners and to media all over the world. Once again, this is a challenging time, but we are ready for that. Maybe more than ever, we’ll need a strong media coverage.

See also