LONG BEACH, CA., Sept. 14. FOR the first time in more than a quarter century, the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials are returning to Southern California.
At its convention in Dearborn, MI. here today, United States Swimming –the sport's governing body — voted to award the 2004 Olympic Trials to this Southern California seaside city.
However, unlike 1968 and 1976, when the Trials were held indoors at the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool, the 2004 competition will go off in a portable outdoor facility, similar to what will exist in Athens for the Olympics themselves.
Two 50 meter pools will probably be constructed between the Convention Center and the beach just north of Shoreline Drive, a site currently occupied by a parking lot, according to David Simon, president of the L.A. Sports Council.
The Trials are tentatively scheduled for July 7-14, 2004, and are expected to draw 1000 swimmers, 300 coaches plus athletes' families and friends and out-of-town visitors, plus a large contigent of media.
Rich Foster, co-chairman of the bid committee, said preliminary estimates put the economic impact of the competition at $15 million.
Long Beach (Belmont Plaza) was also the site of the 1975 U.S. World Championship Trials and 1978 NCAA Division 1 Men's Championship.
Tim Shaw, former Sullivan Award winner (given to America's outstanding amateur athlete) and a quadruple world record-setter and quadruple gold medalist at the '75 World Championships in Cali, Colombia, is a Long Beach native and graduate of Cal State Long Beach.
Current Michigan men's coach Jon Urbancek also earned his spurs at CSULB before going on to guide his alma mater, and coached Shaw for a couple of years while at the 49ers' helm — as did his predecessor, current Santa Clara coach Dick Jochums.
Ironically, CSULB dropped its support for swimming and water polo in the early '90s and now has no aquatic sports teams for either women or men. (Perhaps the swimming community could make a goal of reintroducing collegiate swimming to CSULB by the 2004 Trials.)
"We are convinced Long Beach is the perfect site for the 2004 Trials and will best serve the interests of our athletes and our sport," said Chuck Wielgus, executive director of USA Swimming.
Long Beach made its bid in conjunction with the L.A. Sports Council. They previously lost a joint bid to play host to the 2005 FINA World Championships, which went to Montreal — site of the 1976 Olympics.
Foster said the Long Beach bid appealed to USA Swimming officials on several levels. "We have Southern California sizzle, and we're one of the hotbeds in the U.S. for swimming, and we have the population base to virtually assure sellout crowds."
Another factor in Long Beach's favor, Foster added, was its outdoor venue. The two other cities in the bidding — Indianapolis and San Antonio — both have indoor pools.
"The venue in Athens is outdoors and I think the USA Swimming officials liked the idea athletes can get a feel for what it will be like there competing here
There is a precedent for using portable outdoor pools to host a major meet such as the Trials. At this year's World Championships in Fukuoka the pool was an outdoor portable unit and the same setup was in effect at the World Short Course Championships in Hong Kong a few years ago. Temporary stands for as many as 10,000 spectators can be erected and configured as ticket demand dictates.
The Trials have been held in Indianapolis for four of the past five Olympiads, i.e., 1984, 1992, 1996 and 2000. In 1988 they were at the Uniwersity of Texas Swimming Center in Austin and in 1972 at Portage Park in Chicago.
Los Angeles was the site of the Trials in 1964 when the Games were held in Tokyo.
— Bill Bell