The FINA Bureau approved the organization of a new and additional swimming event format to debut in '19: the FINA Champions Swim Series. It will consist of a three-leg competition, between March and May, aimed at Olympic and World medalists, in an innovative format to create a world-class platform for elite swimming. The Series will comprise events of 50m, 100m and 200m in freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly (as well as the 400m free and 200m IM), in addition to four relay races. The program will include only finals, where the best four swimmers in each event will compete in individual races. The competition will be held in 50m pools, and each leg will be contested over three days (Friday to Sunday). The athletes’ participation will be on an invitation-only basis, comprising the Olympic and world champion, the world record holder and the best in the world ranking in each event (FINA). SWIMSWAM's Braden Keith reported the series will award over $3.9M in prize money, making it the richest swimming event in FINA history, and FINA "will also cover athletes’ travel costs and provide them with appearance money." Athletes will be grouped into teams -- "on a continental or sponsor basis" -- with each team comprising 24 athletes (12 men, 12 women). While "not specifically stated," the new series "seems to be in direct response" to the "similar-sounding" Int'l Swimming League (SWIMSWAM, 12/13).
MORE TO COME: The BBC's Nick Hope reported FINA hopes its "innovative" new format will "appease those who have voiced frustrations with their governance in recent years." However, "further action could still be taken by unhappy swimmers." More than 30 of the world's best swimmers will reportedly meet in London next week to "discuss taking further action against the governing body" (BBC, 12/13).
The Big Bash League "is set to trump the Perth Test," with fans "not voting with their feet" for Optus Stadium's first five-day match, according to Andrew Wu of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. While ticket sales for the second test have been lower than expected, the WACA is anticipating a sellout for the Perth Scorchers' first home match of the BBL on Boxing Day, with 33,400 tickets already sold. Cricket Australia expects a total crowd of 70,000-80,000 to attend the test at the 60,000-capacity stadium, with an "anticipated day-one turnout of about 21,000." West Australian cricket officials have said that any test with expected crowds in excess of 60,000 "would be played at Optus Stadium instead of the spiritual home at the WACA" (SMH, 12/13). In Sydney, Andrew Faulkner wrote CA and Optus Stadium "have made a bit of a mess" of what should have been "as easy as, well, selling cricket to cricket lovers." The "main criticism, or a leading knock at least, of the WACA was its lack of shade." The shade debacle "coincided with a contretemps that all began when the stadium was busy spruiking its culinary delights (such as hot dogs) on social media." These delicacies would be available at the stadium’s "first ever International Test." Of the "sundry crimes against the language contained within those four words," the "gravest sin" is placing "International" and "Test" in adjoining (sunbaked) seats (THE AUSTRALIAN, 12/13).
IN DENIAL: In Sydney, Jon Pierik reported CA "denies it has been involved in pitch doctoring" at the sport's new A$1.6B ($1.16B) venue on a day Indian captain Virat Kohli "threw down the gauntlet to Australia's fast bowlers." Eyebrows were raised when stadium curator Brett Sipthorpe said that CA had requested a "frighteningly fast and bouncy Perth pitch to unsettle an Indian side more accustomed to placid home conditions." Sipthorpe said, "They want to see this place fly. That's like an early Christmas present to me." The sport's governing body insisted it "never dictates how the pitch should play, only that it wants a variety of styles around the country" (SMH, 12/13).
Women will be allowed to race down the "iconic" Cresta Run toboggan track in Switzerland this season "after an 89-year ban was overturned." They were allowed to race on equal terms with men until the '20s, when it was deemed "medically dangerous." However, at a St. Moritz Tobogganing Club meeting, members voted by a two-thirds majority to allow women to ride the Cresta Run again and become members (BBC, 12/13).
Moroccowill not enter the race to host the 2019 African Cup of Nations, "despite being tipped to stage the event after Cameroon was stripped of the hosting rights." After the Confederation of African Football decided to move the tournament last week because of doubts over Cameroon’s delivery of infrastructure and security fears, Morocco and South Africa were installed as early favorites to be "emergency host" (SOCCEREX, 12/13).
Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers' Association announced Aussie cricket's awards event will be renamed the Australian Cricket Awards from '19. The announcement follows several changes to the awards in the past years to reflect the shifting landscape of Australian cricket and the increasing recognition of women's cricket and the popularity of the T20 format (CA).