Showdown Today for the Montreal Word Champs -- January 11, 2005
BY Phillip Whitten
MONTREAL, January 11. IT'S Showdown Time for the 2005 World Championships. No more threats, no more pr moves, no more excuses.
Today, it's "Do or Die," as FINA has flown in the Big Boys -- President Moustapha Larfaoui and Executive Director Cornel Marculescu -- to determine why plans for the meet, scheduled for July 17-31 and embracing all five aquatic disciplines, have gone so awry and what -- if anything -- can be done to salvage it.
Larfaoui and Marculescu are meeting today with leaders of the Montreal Organizing Committee to determine whether the Championships should be cancelled or, if possible, moved to another venue. Canadian officials have mentioned that Long Beach, California, would be willing to host the meet. However, as reported earlier on SwimInfo, Long Beach officials have stated that they have no interest in doing so and that, in any event, they do not have the facilities to host such a meet nor the time to organize it.
A decision is expected by next Tuesday, January 18.
The world swimming championships -- encompassing swimming, diving, open water swimming, water polo and synchronized swimming -- are considered the world's third most important international championship behind only soccer and track and field. The Montreal meet is expected to attract some 2,000 athletes, coaches and officials from 160 countries, as well as thousands of fans and worldwide media.
The event, however, is in dire danger of being cancelled or moved due to financial troubles that include a shortfall of about CAN$8 million in sponsorship revenue.
"Every meeting we have now is life or death," said Dick Pound, co-president of the organizing committee, a former Vice President of the IOC and current head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). "We want to hear what flexibility they have as far as financial commitments and whether they're thinking of canceling the event. We'll tell them what our plans are for going to (the Canadian) government and the private sector (for money)."
However, the federal, provincial and municipal governments have already chipped in more than CAN$28 million and spokespersons for each entity have said they have no interest in donating additional funds.
Fundraising efforts from the private sector so far have fallen well short of expectations.
Organizers have commitments for only CAN$4 million of the $12 million they were seeking in private sponsorships and, thus far, they have fallen $5.5 million short of the $6 million they hoped to raise through ticket sales.