By James Parrack
LONDON, Jan. 30. As Mark Foster reclaimed the world 50-metres freestyle record for Britain at
the final World Cup meet in Paris on Sunday, FINA, the world governing body, gave a further boost to British swimming by confirming Manchester as one of the hosts for a re-vamped series next year. But to remain a host on the new million-dollar circuit, Britain will have to deliver London as the venue.
"FINA made it clear that they would like London to be the venue for the British round and securing a World Cup venue is part of our commitment to help make Great Britain a force in world swimming," said David Sparkes, the chief executive of British swimming.
With many of the sport's top stars capitalizing on their success at last summer's Sydney Olympics rather than face the grind of the World Cup series, FINA has been forced to rethink the format. The objective is to create a showcase for the sport between the major events. They hope to attract the Thorpes and Van den Hoogenbands to the series by staging next year's events in the great cities of the world and by raising the prize fund to one million dollars.
FINA has reduced the number of rounds from ten to eight and the series will take in Rio de Janeiro, New York, Shanghai, Melbourne, Edmonton, Manchester,
Stockholm and Berlin. Berlin and Stockholm are practically guaranteed to stay as hosts and for Britain to join them, Sparkes will need London.
But with the disastrous bids to bring the Olympic Games and the World Cup to London, there is not a good
precedent for hosting sport in the capital. And with Paris planning a state of the art pool as part of its Olympic bid for 2008, the pressure to keep Britain on the swimming map will only increase.
James Parrack is a former British national champion in the breaststroke.