Thursday, August 03, 2006

VDH and other top swimmers to petition over Beijing plan

Some of the world's leading swimmers are set to approach the International Olympic Committee to protest a proposal that would see the finals at the Beijing Games switched to the morning for US television.

American broadcaster NBC, which paid $3.55 billion for the exclusive US media rights to the 2000-2008 Games, has requested the switch to the morning in Beijing to coincide with prime-time viewing in the US

Swimming is predicted to be a major ratings winner in the US with Michael Phelps, who won eight medals at the 2004 Games, featuring prominantly.

"I don't think we should be pandering to the American dollar," Michael Klim, a six-times Olympic medallist, told the Australian newspaper on Thursday.

Swimmers taking part in the ongoing European Championships in Budapest were looking to organise a petition to express their concerns to the IOC, the Australian swimmer added.

Klim said he and training partner Dutch Olympic champion Pieter van den Hoogenband had discussed during training sessions in Cyprus what could be done to prevent the switch.

"We had extensive talks there," Klim said. "And the programme in Beijing is something we want to address. "We can still prepare to swim fast but it's about where the priorities lie. This is not in our best interests and sends a message that they don't care about the athletes and the sport," he added.


Swimming Australia said they opposed the proposal, which the IOC is set to rule on by September.

"(The petition) is probably a good thing because they will listen to them," Swimming Australia's Ian Hanson told Reuters on Thursday. "Our guys would race for gold at midnight but they are just not used to it. "It would require practice for the body clock and with races at 9.30 in the morning it would be a whole new ball game."

The sport's governing body Fina have approved evening finals for the 2007 World Championships in Melbourne, while the finals of the Australian short course championships would be switched to the morning if the IOC ratified the proposal, Hanson said.

But Hanson predicted a commercial "disaster" in Australia and throughout Asia if the finals were staged in the morning. "If they were on at 9.30 in the morning we'd have one man and his dog watching. I know America are the big player and we are relatively small fish but it really would not be good for us."


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