FINA Coverage: Windsor To Spend Millions On Swimming

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Tuomi-HeaderWhen the Federation Internationale De Natation (FINA) 13th World Championships, Short Course, ends in December, it may not be the end of its relationship with Windsor. It is possible the city will bid for FINA’s largest world championships.

Known as the Long Course, it includes swimming, diving, high diving, open water swimming, synchronized swimming, and water polo.

On their own, these indications may appear banal but, collectively, they could be prescient.

One of the most significant is the large fortune of non-ear-marked money the city is amassing. At a minimum it has $185 million in reserves and $32-million in an early debt-reduction fund. The money has been banked, reported the Windsor Star on April 17, because, “… the city has already covered all the debt it is allowed to pay off early.”

Initially, it was to be used to help pay for a new hospital but, a week later, Drew Dilkens mysteriously abandoned the idea in favour of a plan to use the capital budget starting in 2023.

Other indications, not necessarily in any order of importance, include the city’s stated goal of concentrating on sports tourism. Critics point out this might be to detract voters from its failures on the economic development front. The most recent was the loss of a jobs-creating General Electric engine plant. It is assumed high taxes was the reason Windsor was quickly eliminated, but an on-going law suit could also have played a part.

Tax rates are no concern to FINA. Its hosts pay the lion’s share of its competitions. Curiously, after taking office, Dilkens spent a week in Doha, Qatar, supposedly meeting with FINA. No announcements on the outcome have emerged.

Although Windsor has made sports tourism a priority, it has yet to explain how occasional sporting events can sustain its economy. It even watered down the impact of the Short Course by hiring foreign nationals to run the event.

On January 28, 2014, the CBC reported one of the hires, Peter Knowles of the United Kingdom, was brought in to “… attract and oversee competitions at the new downtown aquatic centre.”

On August 23, the local CTV news revealed Samantha Magalas, the city’s newly hired sports tourism officer, had won a number of Swim Canada events starting in 2017.

Dilkens, while mentioning Magalas was, “… starting to fill the pipeline,” made no mention of Knowles. It could be that the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to him might have something to do with the Long Course hosting rights.

Another factor working in Windsor’s favour are the difficulties FINA is having finding hosts. It is basically locked out of North America.

Rising costs forced Guadalajara, Mexico, to back out of the 2017 event. US swimming executives talk of the championship being too pricey for any American city.

Other cities have also removed themselves.

Sportcal.com, on August 27, 2015, reported Argentina willingly abandoned the bidding to host in 2021 or 2023. The report mentioned Australia and Germany had also pulled out.

The Long Course will be costly considering Windsor has few venues.

Its $80 million dollar downtown aquatics centre is too small for the Short Course and will probably be expanded. However, the money the city has socked away may only be a down payment if Hungary is any guide.

On February 19, the Budapest Beacon reported the invoice to host the 2017 championships had reached $312 million, “… according to latest estimates, or 3.5 times original estimates.”

It is expected FINA will make its 2025 decision sometime after the Short Course wraps up and it can judge Windsor’s performance. The announcement could come in Budapest. A clue might be if Dilkens plans to be there next July.

If Windsor gets the nod, a mini building boom would start, allowing the city to bulk up on swimming facilities.

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About the Author

Robert Tuomi
After initially succeeding as a broadcast journalist and achieving senior level assignments, Robert branched out into marketing communications. As a senior executive, primarily in the high-tech industry, Robert created award-winning and comprehensive, multi-faceted initiatives to enhance sales and expand market awareness for some of the largest companies in their fields. Email Robert Tuomi