Alfréd Hajós at the first modern Olympic Games, Athens, 1896. (IOC/Olympic Museum Collection)

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Hajós, Alfréd

(1878–1955), Olympic champion and architect. Alfréd Hajós (born in Budapest as Arnold Guttmann) came from a working-class Hungarian Jewish family; in his youth he converted to Christianity. The word first summarizes and characterizes Hajós’s athletic career. He won the 100-meter and 1,200-meter swimming championships in the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896. With this achievement he was not only Hungary’s first Olympic champion, but also the first in the world, as swimming had not been part of the ancient Olympic Games. From 1898 to 1904, he was also on the team that won the first Hungarian soccer championship. Although he stopped competing in 1904, he remained active in the sporting world, and led the Hungarian Soccer Association in 1905 and 1906.

Hajós graduated as an architect from the Technical University in Budapest in 1899. After working in the offices of Ignác Alpár and Ödön Lechner, he opened his own office with János Villányi in 1904. His style ranged from eclectic and secessionist to modern: his major works included the Institution for the Blind in Kolozsvár (today Cluj-Napoca in Romania), the Arany Bika Hotel in Debrecen, and the Roman Catholic Secondary School at Lőcse (today Levoča in Slovakia). With Károly Weichinger, Hajós also designed the thermal baths in Hajdúszoboszló.

Hajós’s projects included sport facilities, halls, stadiums, and swimming pools. His most famous work, located on Margaret Island in Budapest, is the indoor swimming pool that bears his name. The Megyeri Street sports complex in Budapest was the largest sport facility he designed. Even after retiring from active sports, Hajós retained his competitive spirit. In 1924, he and Dezső Lauber won second place in the Mental Olympic games in Paris under the category of architecture; they had entered the competition with a plan for a stadium.

After World War II, Hajós helped to restore many badly damaged public buildings in Budapest. Not long before his death, he wrote his memoir, Így lettem olimpiai bajnok (In This Way I Became an Olympic Champion), published one year after his death.

Suggested Reading

János Gerle, Attila Kovács, and Imre Makovecz, Aszázadforduló magyar építészete (Budapest, 1990); Miklós Zeidler, “A Nemzeti Stadiontól a Népstadionig,” Tanulmányok Budapest Múltjából 26 (1997): 9–86.