European Maccabi games to honour first Jewish Olympic champion

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

The ceremony will take place on July 31st at the Hungarian capital’s Kozma Street Jewish Cemetery.

One participant, marathon runner Peter Hajdú, 65, is running 331 miles from Prague over 10 days to the opening ceremony on July 30th.

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, that were held in the chilly waters of the Mediterranean Sea in early April.

It made Hajo, 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.

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

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