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Apart from popular spectator sports such as soccer, horse-racing, and the Grand Prix, the city offers a range of sports facilities for participators. Swimming is very popular in Hungary, and Budapest has plenty of pools, such as the Hajós Alfréd Pool in the southern part of Margit sziget, which hosted the European Waterpolo Championships in 2001, and the Császár Komjádi Pool - both have an indoor and an all-season outdoor pool. In summer you can find big outdoor pools ( strand ) surrounding by grass and fried-food stalls on the Margit sziget, at Csillaghegy (III, Pusztakúti utca 3; Szentendre HÉV to Csillaghegy), and at Rómaifürdo, a water park with three big slides, a family slide and sauna (III, Rozgonyi Piroska utca 2; Szentendre HÉV to Rómaifürdo) - all three are open daily in the summer (May-Sept) from 9am to 7pm. The thermal baths - including the Rudas, the Lukács and the Gellért - also have swimming pools.

Tennis courts can be booked all year round at the Városmajor Tennis Academy in Városmajor Park near Moszkva tér (tel 1/202-5337) - you can also hire racquets - while squash enthusiasts should head for the City Squash Club at II, Marcibányi tér 13 (tel 1/325-0082). To organize horse-riding contact the Hungarian Equestrian Tourism Association at Ráday utca 8 (tel 1/456-0444, fax 456-0445, www.equi.hu ); alternatively, head out for the Great Plain, where there are many small riding schools. In winter, it's possible to ski at Normafa and Jánoshegy in the Buda Hills - equipment can be rented from Suli Sí in the Komjádi swimming complex at II, Árpád fejedelem utca 8 (tel 1/212-2750). Skates can be rented at the ice rink in the Városliget between November and March. Finally, most of the larger hotels have fitness centres open to non-residents.

Soccer
Hungary's great footballing days are long past - the golden team of the 1950s that beat England 6-3 with stars such as Ferenc Puskás and József Bozsik is a world away from today's national team that struggles to qualify for any big tournaments. The club scene is also in deep crisis, with teams floundering in a financial desert amid poor infrastructure and bad management. While international matches are held at the Népstadion - generally filling just a third of its 76,000 seats - club football revolves around the turf of three premier league teams . Ferencvárosi Torna Club (aka FTC or Fradi) is the biggest club in the country, based at IX, Ülloi út 129, near the Népliget metro. Fradi is almost a national institution, and its supporters, dressed in the club's colours of green and white, are the loudest presence at international matches too. The club has long had right-wing ties - this was the fascists' team before the war, and in recent years it has attracted a strong skinhead - and anti-Semitic - element. When a businessman of Jewish origin bought the club in 2001, it resulted in an outpouring of violently anti-Semitic comments from the nationalist right wing. Fradi fans try to pick fights with supporters of Újpesti Torna Egylet, whose ground is at IV, Megyeri út 13 (four stops on bus #30 from Újpest Központ metro station). Their main rivals are MTK, whose club is at VIII, Salgótarján utca 12-14 (tram #37 from Blaha Lujza tér).

See the daily paper Nemzeti Sport for details for fixtures. The season runs from late July to late November and then from late February to mid-June. Matches are played on Saturday afternoons. Tickets cost around £3/$5.


Horse-racing
Horse-racing has flourished for many years in Hungary, but is currently in a state of turmoil. It was introduced from England by Count Széchenyi in 1827 and flourished until 1949, when flat racing ( galopp ) was banned by the Communists. For many years punters could only enjoy trotting races at the Ügetopálya just beyond Keleti Station, but in the mid-1980s flat racing resumed at Kincsem Park, further east of the centre. The sport since then has been dogged by financial problems and mismanagement, and the announcement in 2000 that the trotting track (the Ügetopálya ) was being sold off for redevelopment caused uproar in racing circles.

At present horse-racing is in a state of complete upheaval. While Kincsem Park is redeveloped to handle both flat racing and trotting, flat racing takes place outside the city at Alag , on the road to Vác, and trotting remains at the Ügetopálya at Kerepesi út 11 (bus #95 or trolley bus #80 from either Népstadion or Keleti Station). Trotting races start at 2pm on Saturday and 4pm on Wednesday. The atmosphere at the tracks is informal, but photographing the racegoers is frowned upon, since many attend unbeknownst to their spouses or employers. Races are advertised in Fortuna magazine. Betting operates on a tote system, where your returns are affected by how the odds stood at the close of betting. The different types of bet you can make are tét (placing money on the winner); hely (on a horse coming in the first three); and the popular befutó (a bet on two horses to come in either first and second or first and third). Winnings are paid out about fifteen minutes after the end of the race.



The Hungarian Grand Prix
First held in 1986, the Hungarian Grand Prix takes place every summer at the purpose-built Formula One Racing track at Mogyoród , 20km northeast of Budapest. It is usually scheduled for mid-August, and financial uncertainties surrounding the event spark off rumours every year that this is the last year it will be held. Details are available from Tourinform, any listings magazine or the website www.hungaroring.hu . You can reach the track by special buses from the Árpád Bridge bus station; trains from Keleti Station to Fót, and then a bus from there; or by HÉV train from Örs vezér tere to the Szilasliget stop, which is 1800m northeast of Gate C. Tickets , available from Ostermann Forma 1 Kft., Apáczai Csere János utca 11, 3rd floor (tel 1/317-2844) or from booths in Ferenciek tér, range from £13/$20 for the first day, to between £67/$95 and £180/$265 for the final day, and from £72/$103 to £240/$340 for a three-day pass - the price being partly determined by the location, and whether you book in advance or risk disappointment on the day.

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