February 07, 2005

FINA World Championships Headed For ...

The president of FINA has told Around the Rings that a decision on the new host site for the 2005 FINA World Championships will be made this week at a meeting in Frankfurt.

The FINA World Championships are a multi-sport event, encompassing swimming, diving, synchronized swimming, water polo, and open-water swimming. In case you haven't been following this bizarre story, the event was previously awarded to Montréal, but was withdrawn by FINA due to a lack of funding. A media battle of blame, accusation, and whining has surrounded that decision.

There is unanimous agreement that the organizing committee was millions of dollars short on the revenue side of their budget, but sources disagree over the cause of the shortfall. Various parties blamed the three governments involved (Canada, Québec, and Montréal), FINA itself, and the private sector.

Since the decision, some of the deficit has actually been made up, with various parties stepping forward. There seems to be hope in some quarters that the cancellation is only an extreme pressure tactic by FINA, and that the event will still go on. However, Montréal is not listed among the official candidate cities on FINA's web site, and FINA has publicly insisted that Montreal is out of the running.

Adding a human tragedy to the political drama, the embattled CEO of the Montréal organizing committee, Yvon DesRochers, died on February 2nd at the age of 60-ish (reports vary). The death has received hardly a mention in the English-Canadian press (an exception is sportsnet), but the French-Canadian and European media are widely reporting it as a suicide.

Some have speculated that the withdrawal will hurt Canada's chances at winning host bids in the future. Personally, I don't put too much stock in that; surely the recent successful events in cycling, athletics, triathlon, and rowing won't be completely discounted? Montréal, on the other hand, probably won't benefit from this very public failure.

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