(GUADALAJARA, MEXICO) – Money issues have forced Mexico to withdraw from hosting the 2017 FINA world championships in Guadalajara, with organizers saying they cannot afford the $100 million price tag that goes with hosting the multi-sport aquatic event.
The money to host the event was to come from Mexican federal funds, but recent budget cuts as a result of falling oil prices means the money needed to put on the competition is no longer available.
But Mexico does not get away cleanly; the country will have to pay FINA a $5 million penalty for the withdrawal and had already spent $9.5 million of the $100 million budget. FINA had additional dollar requirements tied to the event that clearly impacts the host city.
“After reviewing the budget, we have determined that we must inform FINA that Mexico cannot host the world championships,” said Jesus Mena, the director of the Mexican National Commission for Physical Culture and Sport, in an Excelsior article.
The world championships was scheduled for July 15-30. The announcement comes as a bit of surprise, since Guadalajara had successfully hosted the 2011 Pan American Games and was given the job of hosting the world championships just weeks later. The city still has the facilities for competition, including the indoor Scotiabank Aquatics Centre, which would greatly reduce the construction costs for the country.
This puts the global aquatic organization in dire straits as it scrambles to find a host for the 2017 event, and the Masters world championships that was to follow. In an interview with the Uruguyan press, FINA Director Julio Maglione said the news, “is very painful for us.”
It is not known which cities FINA would consider to host the event. Guadalajara won the bid for the 2017 worlds after China and Canada withdrew their bids. Canada is preparing for the 2016 short course world championships in Windsor, while China just hosted worlds in 2011 in Shanghai.
Swimming World contacted USA Swimming to gauge an interest in hosting the event.
“We would love to host a long course world championships in the United States, but the economic requirements make it impossible for us to seriously consider,” said Chuck Wielgus, USA Swimming Executive Director.
These are strong words coming from the leader of an organization in a wealthy country like the United States.
John Leonard, Executive Director for the American and World Swimming Coaches associations was a little more pointed when he said, “This is certainly a sad moment for our Mexican friends. But it is understandable because FINA has now inflated the price of a world championships beyond what any democracy would consider prudent to pay for a sports event.
“FINA will be mired forever into using facilities in autocratic countries where a ruling elite can make a decision to over-spend for the ‘sporting prestige’ of hosting such an event, which means that FINA and the democracies are finished with each other. It’s unfortunate that an organization charged with representing all of us now truly works only with the autocracies.
“We all deserve better. But then, FINA knows best how to line its own pockets. They are experts at it.”
This year’s world long course championships will be held in Kazan, Russia, in early August.