FINA Fiasco Revisited

Tuomi-HeaderWhat just happened in Windsor? A $21 million minor swimming competition clearly illustrates the folly of a council putting vanity ahead of community service.

The city paid millions to host the FINA short course event. FINA is a rich, foreign outfit with a modus operandi of not paying its own way. Onorio Colucci, the city’s current Chief Administrative Officer, told the local paper March 10 about this being, “… the way these things work.”

While these might be the acceptable inner workings of a swimming competition to Colucci, but the results are not very impressive. They could readily be described as an error of judgement on council’s part, something its members will wear during the 2018 election.

This costly expense was trumpeted by the powers that be as an attempt to get on the world map. But, judging by media coverage, the powers failed miserably.

Last Thursday, Canada’s National newspaper, the Globe and Mail had no coverage. On Friday, neither did the fabled New York Times. On Saturday, neither did the Telegraph of London. Finally, on Sunday, the Times of India mentioned the championship and its location in a story datelined Montreal. This suggests the reporter was not at the competition.

How will councilors justify spending a reported $21 million to have the city’s name mentioned in the Times of India?

How will they explain the fact interest in the competition was so low it did not merit a place on the CBC’s national network? The public broadcaster elected to air skiing from Finland, figure skating from France, and curling from Sault Ste Marie on its prime time Saturday afternoon lineup.

The swimming hullabaloo was supposed to earn thousands of dollars in ticket sales. In the December 9 edition of the Windsor Star, Peter Knowles, the foreigner running the show, was quoted as saying, “… we’re destined for over $300,000 [in sales].”

On a profit and loss basis, this is dismal.

It is well below the cost of renting buses from elsewhere to transport the swimmers. On that front, $475,900 was spent to hire Coach Canada, a subsidiary of a Scottish company, and Badder Bus of Thamesville. The city also engaged Acton’s Denny’s Bus Lines and Harrow’s WETrolley, costs not yet revealed.

At times the city had predicted FINA’s championship would generate $20 million in economic benefit. That is another failure simply because most of the benefit will be for other countries. A host of outsiders were brought in to manage the event. They came from other parts of Canada, Europe, and Australia.

Hotels were booked in Detroit and Leamington. Foreign airlines flew the swimmers to Canada or the US. Prize money, about $1.2 million, paid for by Windsor taxpayers, left with the athletes.

A true evaluation of the economic value of the big spend must consider how much cash left the city. It is doubtful Windsor’s councilors will come clean, however. Instead, they will brag about hotel room nights, which is not sustainable economic development.

A flash-in-the-pan never is.

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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.

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