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  • FINA Boss Says Barcelona World Champs Not in Peril; 2020 Bids Hit Russian Trail


    (ATR) Amid speculation that FINA could drop Barcelona as host of the 2013 World Aquatics Championships due to financial problems, President Julio Maglione tells Around the Rings that financial agreements have now been signed.
    Signage for the convention features its mission statement. (ATR/Panasonic Lumix)

    ATR understands that FINA had approached Tokyo and Shanghai to replace Barcelona until the guarantees were inked.

    Maglione denied that Barcelona could still be stripped of hosting rights, saying financial agreements had been negotiated and he had received assurances from the Spanish sports minister to ensure the event goes ahead.

    Officials from the Barcelona 2013 organizing committee, who are exhibiting this week at the FINA Aquatics Convention in Moscow, told ATR that the $55 million budget had been guaranteed by city hall.

    Deputy managing director Merce Valles insisted there was no danger of Barcelona failing to deliver on its promises.

    “It is definitely Barcelona. There is no doubt about it. We are prepared,” she told ATR on Wednesday.

    No new venues have been built for the July 19 to Aug. 4 world championships, but significant renovations are taking place at four venues – Palau Sant Jordi, venue for swimming and synchro; Bernat Picornell Pool for the water polo; Municipal De Montjuic Pool for diving; and Moll De La Fusta, the spectacular waterside backdrop for open water and high diving exhibition events.

    A total of 2,500 swimmers from 180 countries are taking part in the biennial showpiece.

    Speculation that the 1992 Olympic city might lose hosting rights has been alluded to in at least two conference sessions at the FINA convention in the Russian capital.

    Speaking at the conference on Wednesday, FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu told delegates: “We have all the guarantees the world championships [in Barcelona] will be held in the best possible conditions. The venues are stunning, including unique diving facilities.”

    In the session titled "Aquatics for All: Developing and Performing for Excellence", Marculescu was part of a panel moderated by South African IOC member Sam Ramsamy. Yoon-Suk Kim, secretary general of the 2015 Gwangju Summer Universiade, and Italian journalist Gianni Merlo also participated.

    Kim’s presentation aimed to raise awareness of Gwangju as a “sports loving city”. South Korea's sixth largest city is bidding to host the 2019 aquatics worlds.
    Officials from the Gwangju 2015 Summer Universiade organizing committee and bid for the 2019 FINA world championships. (ATR/Panasonic Lumix)

    He talked of sport’s role as a catalyst for urban regeneration. For the Summer Universiade that follows Kazan 2013, the city will use 73 venues. Of those, only two will be new builds, with many of the other facilities refurbished.

    Kim said Gwangju offered FINA the “perfect opportunity” to make “great developments".

    China and Japan are also bidding for the 2019 and potentially 2021 championships.

    Challenges Ahead for FINA

    Marculescu underlined the progress that FINA has made in recent years, while outlining challenges to be tackled.
    IOC member Sam Ramsamy, Yoon-Suk Kim, secretary general of the 2015 Gwangju Summer Universiade, Italian journalist Gianni Merlo and FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu. (ATR/Panasonic Lumix)

    He said FINA’s assets were: a strong development program, financial assistance to national federations for participation at FINA worlds; growing interest from prestigious cities to host FINA events; excellent relations with TV partners – contracts in almost 200 territories; great TV audiences of more than 3.5 billion for the 2009 and 2011 world champs; and the federation’s strong presence on social media networks, with almost 100,000 followers on Facebook and a combined 1.5 million readers and followers for FINA’s online magazine and on Twitter.

    Among the goals ahead were to stimulate participation and develop new stars in the wake of Michael Phelps’ outstanding successes. The FINA chief described the U.S. swimmer who has 22 Olympic medals, including 18 gold, as “the greatest ever Olympian”.

    Promotion of mixed relays, improving the sport’s presentation and continuing negotiations with the IOC to replicate the world champs program at the Olympic level, are key objectives.

    Monitoring the evolution of swimwear and equipment technology, which has led to sophisticated approval systems, was also an important task.

    2020 Olympic Bids at FINA Convention

    The three candidate cities for the 2020 Games are making their presence felt in Russia this week at the Moscow FINA Aquatics Convention and Peace and Sport Forum in Sochi.

    Tokyo was represented at the aquatics conference by bid CEO Masato Mizuno and executive board member Daichi Suzuki.

    Spanish Olympic Committee president Alejandro Blanco led Madrid’s small delegation to the FINA event.

    Istanbul was not represented in Moscow – but for good reason.

    A spokesperson told ATR that bid chief Hasan Arat was unable to attend the convention “as he was chairing a vitally important workshop and series of technical meetings with international and national experts on the candidature file that over-ran – in part due to several international experts being delayed due to Hurricane Sandy”.

    But with Istanbul hosting the 11th FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) in December, there were a number of senior stakeholders in Turkish sport who met with members of the FINA family.

    The spokeperson added: “There is already a senior Istanbul bid presence in Russia with Turkish IOC member Ugur Erdener on the ground in Sochi having various meetings with senior Olympic Family members that are arriving for Peace and Sport.

    “He will be joined by a senior colleague, Turker Arslan, vice president of the Turkey NOC and responsible for sport for social development and peace and related areas for the Istanbul 2020 bid. There will be a strong Istanbul 2020 presence at all the major forthcoming Olympic Family events.”

    After Peace and Sport, the bids will turn their attention to lobbying at the general assemblies of the Olympic Council of Asia and the European Olympic Committees, in China and Israel in November and December.

    Reported in Moscow by Mark Bisson

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