Swimming: Singapore good enough to host senior Fina World C'ships after exceptional junior meet

Turkish swimmer Viktoria Gunes on her way to winning the women's 200m individual medley at the Fina World Junior Swimming Championships at the OCBC Aquatic Centre last night. Fina president Julio Maglione says Singapore is "doing an excellent job" ho
Turkish swimmer Viktoria Gunes on her way to winning the women's 200m individual medley at the Fina World Junior Swimming Championships at the OCBC Aquatic Centre last night. Fina president Julio Maglione says Singapore is "doing an excellent job" hosting the meet.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Fina chief sings Singapore's praises but huge obstacles remain to a possible bid

Singapore might be hosting the Fina World Junior Swimming Championships for the first time but Fina president Julio Maglione, in town for the biennial meet, said the Republic has done an exceptional job so far.

So much so that he is backing Singapore to host the senior edition of the world championships, which was held in Kazan, Russia, from July 24 to Aug 9 this year.

Speaking at the OCBC Aquatic Centre on Day 4 of the competition yesterday, the 79-year-old Uruguayan told local reporters: "You are doing an excellent job.

"You have a beautiful city, a beautiful pool and friendly people. And you have people that have the knowledge to do an excellent championships.

"As I see, you can do perfectly the World Championships. Yes, you need more infrastructure but, if you prepare, you can do it. You have all the conditions."

Singapore has a history of hosting Fina events. In 2006, the Republic hosted its first Fina event, the Marathon Swimming World Cup. Since 2007, it has also hosted one leg of the Fina Swimming World Cup.

One stumbling block to staging the World Championships is the lack of infrastructure here, which Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) president Lee Kok Choy had previously highlighted.

At a press conference on Monday, he had said: "To do the World Championships, we need to have a seating capacity in excess of 11,000. It's a very huge thing, a totally different event...

"Whether we have the capacity to do that, we have to review after having done (the World Junior Championships)."

Singapore's best aquatic facility is the 3,000-seat OCBC Aquatic Centre. The seats surround a competition pool and a diving pool.

But Fina executive director Cornel Marculescu said Singapore can replicate the Kazan model, and host the meet in the National Stadium next door.

To host the swimming events, two temporary 50m pools were constructed on the football pitch at the Kazan Arena, a 45,379-seat stadium which houses Russian football club Rubin Kazan.

Another issue is cost.

Hosting the biennial World Championships, which comprises six aquatic disciplines - diving, high diving, open-water swimming, swimming, water polo and synchronised swimming - costs an estimated US$100 million (S$140 million).

In fact, Mexico pulled out of hosting the next edition owing to cost issues. In March, it was announced that Hungary would be hosting the 2017 meet instead.

Even the mighty Americans baulked at the cost. Chuck Wielgus, USA Swimming's executive director, told popular swimming website Swimming World in February that "the economic requirements make it impossible for us to seriously consider".

The SSA did not respond to queries from The Straits Times by press time.

Maglione, who has headed swimming's world body since 2009, also touched on the call for greater prize money in the sport.

Last year, Australian swimmer Christian Sprenger, a former world champion and two-time Olympic silver medallist, told this paper he earns about A$40,000 (S$39,975) in prize money - in a good year.

In contrast, the 200th-best earner on the Association of Tennis Professionals Tour has pocketed US$83,357 (S$116,811).

Maglione countered that prize money at Fina events, such as the Swimming World Cup series, has been increasing.

But he added: "If you increase the money, the sport will have more problems.

"You look at the problems at Fifa. When you have more money, ambition (becomes) very big.

"To increase the money is important. But don't be 100 per cent professional is better.

"If you are professional 100 per cent... you lose the importance of this sport."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2015, with the headline 'GOOD ENOUGH TO HOST WORLD C'SHIPS'. Print Edition | Subscribe