Swimming: Top athletes form alliance to push for change and more money

Swimming is the major sport for the first week of every Games.
Swimming is the major sport for the first week of every Games.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (Reuters) - Former Olympic champion Matt Biondi and a list of top swimmers announced an alliance on Tuesday (June 8) to push for more say in how the sport is run and financial rewards for competing at global events like the Olympics.

The 10-member board of the International Swimmers' Alliance includes Hungary's Katinka Hosszu, Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands and South African Chad Le Clos - all Olympic gold medallists.

The United States' 11-times Olympic medallist and former world record holder Biondi will be chairman.

"World-class swimmers have been under-represented and, in turn, exploited by the Olympic business model," the Alliance said on its website.

It said 120 world class swimmers from 31 countries had signed up.

The announcement follows the election last Saturday of Kuwaiti Husain Al-Musallam as president of aquatics world governing body Fina.

It comes also in the run-up to the United States Olympic trials in Omaha this weekend and less then two months before the Tokyo Games starting on July 23.

Swimming is the major sport for the first week of every Games.

The non-profit Alliance said in a statement that it would be an independent organisation established for athletes and by athletes "to fight for swimmers' rights and provide them with an independent global voice."

It added that its goal was to "improve personal and economic opportunities for all elite swimmers by elevating the sport into the modern era."

The Alliance hoped for "positive dialogue" with the International Olympic Committee and Fina but would hold accountable those not acting in athletes' best interests.

"Swimmers receive no compensation for competing either at the Olympics or World Championships," it observed.

The Alliance said it also wanted the establishment and maintenance of pension and health insurance plans and other benefits.

"Very little has changed in the business structure of professional swimming since Tom Jager and I were the first true professional swimmers in America three decades ago. This fact is not lost on today's top swimmers," said Biondi.

The 55-year-old, who competed in the 1984, 1988 and 1992 Olympics, fought a losing battle some 30 years ago to transform the sport and is now closely involved with the professional International Swimming League (ISL).

The Alliance will also have a strategic partnership with Global Athlete, an athlete-led movement that aims to inspire change in world sport.