The USA Today, among other media outlets, are reporting that Dubai has withdrawn as the host of the 2013 World Swimming Championships. FINA and local officials are citing similar reasons for the withdraw, namely that they would prefer to focus on building swimming from the grassroots level, rather than thrusting the city, where the pools are more often filled with rafts and champagne rather than laneropes and Gatorade, into the forefront of the swimming world.
Dubai beat out Hamburg, Germany, and Moscow, Russia to win the bid, and FINA said it would begin a search for a new host. It’s not clear what cities are under consideration, or if Hamburg and Moscow are still interested. Dubai will still host this year’s Short-Course World Championships, and the 2011 long-course event is to be hosted in Shanghai, China.
It’s not clear if there’s a backstory here, but it seems to me as though a good way to build a grassroots program is to bring in the world’s best swimmers, as well as all of the vendors, clinics, and general hoopla that comes with it. I have a feeling that Dubai, which has been hit hard by the financial burst, lost some of the financial backing for the multitude of sporting events that they have brought to the city, which includes the 2011 Cricket World Cup. Dubai also previously withdrew a bid to host the 2014 Asian Games, citing similarly vague reasons about it “not being a priority.” This indicates that there has either been a major philisophical change in the development of the city, or financial backing has dried up.
It seems as though the city, which is trying to diversify its oil-rich economy by promoting tourism, would not have any better focus than hosting these major world events, which are huge platforms for promoting tourism. The big mitigating factor may be Michael Phelps’ recent announcement that he was retiring before he turns 30, which specifically means by 2015. If he’s not going to swim in the next Olympics, he might just go ahead and hang it up after London. A Phelps-less World Championships is a much less attractive financial outlay.