If Windsor does well hosting this December’s minor league short-course FINA swimming competition, it could pave the way to a much larger event. The wealthy, foreign swimming outfit’s long-course could bring competitors from every swimming discipline to the metropolis, along with new prosperity from a massive taxpayer-paid construction boom.
Belgrade, the host of next year’s championships and a city with few swimming amenities, provides some idea of the cost.
Its construction budget has reportedly ballooned to $300 million. This largely equals the total of all monies the city takes in annually from ratepayers. Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens has already travelled to the Hungarian city, a possible clue of what is ahead.
The mayor has a rather large city bank account in the waiting. Sitting idle is $185 million in reserves. There is also a $32 million surplus from an early debt retirement account. He had planned to use it to cover some of the cost of the new hospital, but mysteriously and quickly changed his mind.
Even if the city doesn’t dip into these reserves it could probably use them as a bargaining chip with FINA to prove its financial worth.
To raise money, Dilkens might assume he can draw on the public’s anticipated swimming mania. He might reason that residents will clamour to pay a sports tourism levy just to be back on the world stage.
Up to now, FINA has been tardy to reveal who will host the 2025 long-course. An announcement was expected as part of a package of hosting selections made in January, but 2025 was not on the list.
This could suggest FINA is watching Windsor.
Ironically, at this point, FINA needs Windsor more than it needs FINA. Few, if any, other North American cities have the money to consider such an event. The long-course has been rejected by Guadalajara, Mexico, as well as cities in Australia, Italy, Argentina, Turkey, and Germany.
Only Asian and Middle East countries remain; many under the reign of despots and dictators.
Speculation of Windsor being in the run began with outgoing mayor Eddie Francis and Dilkens travelling to Doha, Qatar, in 2014 for extended FINA meetings. The Windsor Star reported the travel cost alone was $19,000.
At the time, Francis claimed these, “… are the types of relationships we need to have.”
Was he suggesting the city’s links to FINA were ready for expansion?
Another clue emerged on October 27, in the form of a comment from Dilkens at a Ward 7 meeting. Ratepayers were concerned about the torrential rain which flooded some 2,400 homes, mostly in the city’s east end.
According to the CBC, Dilkens told attendees, “… it will take decades before the sewer system can be rebuilt to handle the type of storms seen in late-September.”
About the only plausible reason for such an extended timeframe is the funneling of infrastructure money to finance FINA.
FINA will probably give little to the cause. It is only contributing $1.5 million to Windsor’s short-course. The city is facing a $22 million bill, although $6 million has been received from senior governments and could be collected for the long-course.
The only question now is when the announcement will be made.
It could be in December, while the city is on a swimming high. Dilkens is probably rehearsing a speech declaring taxpayers want FINA back … no matter what the cost.