In December, Windsor will host the Federation Internationale De Natation (FINA) 13th World Swimming Championships Short Course. It will be held in one of the smallest venues with fewer swimmers than preceding events.
According to Wikipedia, most championships have been held in large swimming natatoriums or major arenas. On average during recent runs, there have been seats for at least 10,000 spectators. According to the June 23 edition of the Windsor Star, Windsor will accommodate 4,500.
For 1997, 14,000 seats were available at the Scandinavium, in Gothenburg, Sweden, with its hyperbolic paraboloid shaped saddle roof. In 1999, the biannual event arrived at the Hung Hom Coliseum in Hong Kong, China, which has 12,500 seats.
In 2000, at the Athens Olympic Aquatic Centre, there were 11,500. Moscow’s Olympiiski Sport Complex, host for 2002, accommodated 7,500. Indianapolis, IN, Conseco Fieldhouse, for 2004, had fixed seating for 18,000.
At the Qizhong Stadium in Shanghai, China, in 2006, the seating capacity was 13,779. The 2008 event, at the arena in Manchester, England, seated 21,000.
For 2010, at the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Sports Complex in Dubai, UAE, the capacity was 15,000. Two years later, the Sinan Erdem Dome, in Istanbul, Turkey, provided the most seats ever; 22,000.
Small venues mean less potential spectator revenue which could prove costly for Windsor. It needs every dollar it can raise to cover the majority of expenses for the competition.
FINA’s contribution will be a small stipend of cash and value-in-kind.
However, as paradoxical as it might sound, if Windsor had a larger facility history says it would not automatically translate into more gate revenue. Internet swimming journal SwimSwam told its readers December 11, 2012, “… many times seats have gone unfilled at larger venues.”
In an earlier November 15, 2011, report, it recalled in 2010, “… the Dubai aquatics center was about half-empty throughout most of the meet.”
Craig Lord, writing in swimvortex.com on October 17, 2015, found banks, “… of empty seats, …” at the FINA world’s cup last year in Tokyo, Japan.
Windsor has been quite mum on the event’s current price tag.
Another decline is the number of competitors.
Windsor’s Star newspaper reported on June 23 that the city could welcome as few as 900. Only two years ago, the Hamad Aquatic Centre in Doha, Qatar, played host to a record 1,300.
Less competitors and a dramatic reduction in available seating seems to reflect declining interest in the sport which, in turn, may portend a small audience for television coverage. Possibly to compensate, Windsor will spend $1.4 million to produce an alternative to traditional media, such as streaming on FINA’s website.
Peter Knowles, a British consultant with FINA management experience, and now working for Windsor, has been frank about swimming not having a large audience.
In a PowerPoint overview of his experience with FINA, entitled View of Aquatics from A Host City, he confirmed the event, “… struggles to command significant media interest in the UK and many countries. Like many ‘traditional’ sports, aquatics is losing out to activities with more youthful, ‘edgy’ appeal.”
Watch for more FINA swim meet coverage.