The inaugural LEN European Aquatics Championships kicked off 97 years ago today, on 18 August 1926, in Budapest, Hungary. It was a brief event, compared to the modern LEN competitions, lasting only five days between 18 August and 22 August, and with only six nations competing. Those four nations were Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Great Britain, and the host nation Hungary.
As for the water polo championship, only four out of the six countries entered, who played a round-robin tournament against each other.
The eventual winner Hungary ended up winning all three of their games,
beating Germany 8–1, Belgium 5–0, and Sweden 3–2. Since then, the LEN Water Polo championship has gotten its own stand-alone event (the first of which was held in 1999 in Florence, Italy).
Germany ended up finishing on top of the overall medal table in 1926, with five golds, three silvers, and four bronzes. They were followed by Sweden with two golds, three silvers, and three bronzes. The home team Hungary came in third with two golds and two silvers. Apart from the water polo team, swimmer István Bárány delivered gold for Hungary, in the 100-metre freestyle event.
As for individual glory, Swedish swimmer Arne Borg took the cake. He won two gold medals of his own, in the 400-metre freestyle and 1,500-metre freestyle event, while being part of the Swedish team coming in third in 4X200-metre relay freestyle competition. He even played for his country’s water polo team which finished second behind Hungary. Borg later went on to win a gold medal at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, Netherlands as well; and set 32 world records between 1921 and 1929.
Only men were allowed to compete at the inaugural LEN European Championships, but that was changed as soon as the next competition came around, in 1927 in Bologna, Italy, where female athletes got to compete as well. The third instalment took place four years after, in 1931 in Paris, France.
To date, 36 LEN European Aquatics Championships have been held—the latest one in Rome, Italy in 2022. The fate of the next one, however, is up in the air, as the Russian city of Kazan was selected to host the 2024 competition back in 2019. Evidently, with the Russo-Ukrainian war ongoing, it is very unlikely Russia could host an international sporting event of this magnitude. No official statement has been made about the relocation or the cancellation of the event yet. However, it is telling that it is not displayed on the official calendar on LEN’s website for 2024 either.
the LEN European Aquatics Championships is a great tradition in the world of international sports, and it all started here in Budapest, Hungary
almost a century ago.
With the recent development of the international World Aquatics federation, formerly known as FINA, moving its headquarters to Budapest from Lausanne, Switzerland, it is clear that Hungary has a very special place in the history of water sports.