160th Birth anniversary of Lajos Vermes

Lajos Vermes (Lajos Nagybudafalvi Vermes 1860-1945), a sports legend of Subotica and Palic was born on the 27th of June 1860. Vermes was a landowner, benefactor, sports lover and an athlete, who advocated the motto: a healthy spirit in a healthy body, and promoting sports in general.

Photo: Vermes in his fencing equipment

He obtained the degree of professor of physical culture and worked at the Higher Gymnasium in Subotica,  later also at the University and the Unitary Gymnasium in Cluj (Romania). After returning from Pest medical school, together with his brothers Bela and Nandor, he founded two sports clubs: gymnastics and athletics. Vermes started his sports career at the National Athletic club, and after a series of great results, he became a renowned gymnast and a well-known athlete in the then Austro-Hungarian monarchy, known as a versatile athlete –  swimmer, gymnast, wrestler, swordsman and cyclist.

Photo: Vermes as a versatile athlete

Vermes organized the International Sports Games in Palic with his own efforts and revenues,  which are today known under the name „The Palic Olympics“. The story of the Olympics began in 1876 with his departure to Naples, where he took measure from Miron’s „Disc Thrower“ sculpture and made exactly the same piece of equipment for the Palic Olympics.

Vermes managed to implement his idea on the 26th of August 1880, when the first competition was held and only three sports disciplines (wrestling, long jump and shot put) were included in the competition, but their number increased during later years and the program included gymnastics, swimming, athletics, boxing, wrestling, fencing, rowing and cycling. In order for the games to be held, he set up sports equipment in his orchard in Palic and built athletic tracks for the competition.

Photo: Palic Olympics

For this competition, he built the first 500 meters long ellipsoidal shaped bicycle path in this part of Europe, also known as „The Closed Arena“,  for it was surrounded by grandstands with seats. Along with the path and the stadium, he built an Olympic village on the shore, where competitors had the privilege to settle – the Villa „Bagojvar“, better known as „The Owl’s  Tower“, and the Villa „Lujza“.

Photo: Villa „Bagojvar“, Palic

Photo: Villa „Lujza“, Palic

Vermes gathered hundreds of the best athletes from all over Europe, 16 years before Pierre de Coubertin renewed the modern Olympic Games. He was guided by the idea of founding sports games and the intention to continue the tradition of the Olympic Games, for the initiative of reviving the Olympics has not yet been launched. Unlike the modern games, the Palic Olympic Games were followed by an audience with higher incomes, while the contestants belonged to the poorer strata of society (with rare exceptions). Vermesh’s efforts to keep his sports society open to all without any discrimination deserve special attention. The organization had a multinational character and everyone could participate.

Vermes also proved himself to be a great organizer. He was able to gather a huge number of viewers and competitors, introducing new ideas every year, new disciplines and innovated rules, better conditions for the competitors, with a firm idea of nurturing the spirit of Olympism. He also tried not to let anything that happened go unnoticed and unpublished in the newspapers he collaborated with, as well as in the ones he founded and edited himself. The Palic Olympic Games were held in both summer and winter, and lasted from 1880 to 1914. Unfortunately, World War I put an end to The Palic Olympic Games.

Photo: training ground of the Cluj University

He continued to spread his ideas in Cluj, where he was hired in 1896 as a professor of sports and fencing master, but he remained a permanent devotee of Palic. Lajos Vermes died in Subotica in 1945.

Photo: Lajos Vermes (around the year 1915)

In the memory of this perhaps most impressive person from the sports history of the region, the most prestigious award – the „Lajos Vermes“ medal, was established for the most significant sports successes. The Palic Olympic Games were renewed in the year 2000, with the founding of the Sports Association „Olimpija“, and the celebration of the 120th anniversary since the opening of the Games. In 2004, a monument dedicated to Lajos Vermes was erected in Palic, and the promenade along the lake shore was named after him.

Photo: monument dedicated to Lajos Vermes, Palic