SBD/August 7, 2012/Olympics

Sport Of Swimming Looks For Bigger Exposure Outside Of Summer Games

Lochte (r) suggests a full-time circuit would bring more exposure to the sport
The sport of swimming “doesn't have an established worldwide circuit," but some Olympians feel is it "time to capitalize on the window of opportunity" created by the Olympics and Michael Phelps' success, according to Andrew Dampf of the AP. U.S. Gold Medal-winning swimmer Ryan Lochte said a full-time circuit is “what we need if we want to make the sport bigger than what it is or what it was." Dampf notes the “closest thing swimming has to an international regular season is the World Cup series -- eight meets over six weeks starting in October with stops in Dubai, Doha, Stockholm, Moscow, Berlin, Beijing, Tokyo and Singapore.” But the circuit “pales in comparison to winter sport World Cups like the one in Alpine skiing, or even the Diamond League” in track. It is held in “short-course venues that are half the size of Olympic pools, often failing to draw the top athletes.” Sponsorship also “plays a role” in the draw of the circuit as the current prize money at World Cup meets “is just $1,000 for race winners.” South African swimmer Cameron van der Burgh “suggested allowing swimmers to wear personal sponsors -- even non-swimming brands -- on their caps.” Van der Burgh said, "Most sponsors come and go, 'We would love to sponsor you, but how are we going to get the (exposure)?' You can't say, 'OK when I hit the wall and win and they take my photo I'll put your logo on my cap.' That's what's stopping people." Dampf notes while the World Cup is “now based exclusively in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, not too long ago there were also stops in New York and Sydney.” One of the problems for swimming organizers is “finding pools with enough seating to host big events.” The U.S. Olympic Trials drew "thousands of spectators" earlier this summer in Omaha, but they were "held in a temporary pool” (AP, 8/7).

PHELPS STANDING FIRM: Phelps appeared on NBC’s “Today” show for a live interview with co-host Matt Lauer, and Lauer led off by asking, “So you’re standing on the medal platform and they’re playing the National Anthem after the last race. Are you going to tell me that not for a second you didn’t think, ‘I want to have this same feeling in Rio four years from now?’” Phelps: “I’m done. I’m finished. I’m retired.” Lauer said, “You say it so definitely. I trust Rowdy Gaines and Mark Spitz, and they both say you’re going to get bored of not swimming and in a couple of years you’re going to need a real outlet for your competitive juices.” Phelps replied, “The biggest thing is I can look back at my career and say I’ve done everything exactly the way I wanted to and if you can say that, I’m satisfied.” Lauer told Phelps, “Take a break, you deserve it. It’s some career, Michael” (“Today,” NBC, 8/7).

AUSTRALIA TO EXAMINE PERFORMANCE: The AFP reported Australia "will review the disappointing performance of its much-heralded swimming team" at the London Games, as they acknowledged the world has "lifted the bar." Australia won just 10 medals - one Gold, six Silver and three Bronze -- their lowest tally since the '92 Barcelona Games. The country also was "without an individual gold medalist for the first time since the 1976 Montreal Games." Swimming Australia President David Urquhart said, "We must do everything possible to get Australian swimming back on top. This is not a time for blame and scape-goating, this is an opportunity to make the changes required to rise to the international challenge." Urquhart said that "the review will be independent and conducted" by coach Bill Sweetenham and former Olympian Susie O'Neill. O'Neill has "blamed the poor showing on a lack of discipline compared the countries such as China." Urquhart said, "We are a proud swimming nation, we have a proud history and have the swimming talent and coaches to be the best in world" (AFP, 8/6).
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