After years of preparation, and millions in taxpayer money, about $22 million with $16 from local taxpayers alone, the FINA short course world championship swimming competition has started in earnest, and so has the pretence. Most likely it is being layered on thick because tickets are still available.
In a December 5 report in the Windsor Star, interim mayor Drew Dilkens, opined that locals, “… really need to get their tickets,” suggesting they are errant. Indeed, judging by all the empty seats on the first day, they are more than errant.
They are staying away in droves and the hype is almost amusing.
During its December 4 newscast, CTV boldly claimed that around, “… one thousand will compete from all over the world including the most decorated Olympian, Michael Phelps.”
While Phelps was in the city to pick up an award, he is not a competitor. In fact he has retired.
Most of the world’s greatest swimmers will skip the event as well.
This includes Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom, the winner of three Rio Olympic’s medals. She will be in South Africa doing charity work. There will be seventeen of her compatriots, but no medalists. Coach Karl Joham Gardstroem told CTV News it will be the team’s, “… first time in Canada and at a world championships.”
If Canada’s super swimmer Penny Oleksiak is a guide, as the CBC reported December 4, Windsor will not be seeing real Olympic style competition.
The smaller 25m portable pool has, “… twice as many turns, and double the time spent pushing off underwater … Penny is far more suited … to swimming in a long-course pool because it gives her more time to get up to speed. It’s not then broken up.”
In other words, just as the swimmers get going, they have to turn around. This convolutes the heats and makes for uninspired television.
So insipid, the country’s national broadcaster, CBC, is not broadcasting the competition on its network. It will provide patchy streaming coverage on its Sports internet site, however.
On Saturday afternoon, a prime time for CBC sports, it will cover the figure skating Grand Prix Final in Marseille, France, the Freestyle Skiing World Cup, in Ruka, Finland, and curling in Sault Ste Marie. Excluding FINA from its line-up suggests swimming is not important to Canadians.
Proof of this is the fact the city spent $1.4 million to set up a broadcast studio to live-stream the event.
Justifiably, not all taxpayers are enthusiastic about the costs to Windsor’s hard pressed residents. Posting to the local paper’s story, John Smith asked Dilkens to, “… let us all know when you hit that breakeven point of the $20 million spent by the taxpayers to bring this event here. Don’t talk in generalizations and don’t use self-made numbers and data to justify this so called huge economic impact.”
Smith is concerned about ratepayers funding the room and board for competitors and their entourages, who are, in his view, “… partying and living it up on the property taxpayer’s dime. Our hard earned money should not be spent this way.”
There is nothing wrong with a swimming competition, and this corner of The Square will never disparage the young athletes. It becomes problematic when this rich, foreign outfit takes a poor, provincial city as its sugar daddy.