After the disaster that was the Delhi Commonwealth Games in October, I wrote that the world’s sporting administrations, collectively, needed to rethink the motives behind the bid process for hosting major sporting events.
Now, FINA is the next in line to learn this tough lesson. SwimmingWorld is reporting that the Israeli team, media, and support staff have been unable to obtain visas to enter the country. SW’s sources are saying that the Israeli team has been promised visas by Monday, but this leaves them with a much-less-than-ideal one day to acclimate to their new surroundings prior to the beginning of competition.
Without delving into the centuries-old politics surrounding religion, land, and other conflicts in the Israeli-Arab conflict, these issues should not come as much of a surprise to anyone. The UAE doesn’t accept Israeli passports. Previously, Israeli tennis player Shahar Pe’er was denied a visa to enter the UAE to play in the 2009 Dubai open. (Not that the conflict is one-sided, but these should have been indicators that these problems would arise).
This is the third time that the UAE has embarrassed itself in front of FINA, and the world, in the past year, (along with backing out on hosting the 2013 Long Course Championships and providing unsafe conditions in the race that claimed Fran Crippen’s life) it’s unlikely that they will be hosting another event in the near future. Furthermore, those “TBA”s that were on the upcoming FINA Open Water schedule are looking more and more like they will be announced elsewhere besides the UAE. FINA President Julio Maglione should really be feeling the pressure at this point to avoid the UAE for events for the forseeable future.
FINA needs to reexamine the politics behind their selections, to avoid situations like this.
While we’re on the tangent, FIFA, soccer’s governing body, is following the same mistake-filled path in their selections of World Cups. For the 2018 and 2022 events, they chose Russia and Qatar. The former doesn’t have a single stadium that meets FIFA approval, along with a reeling economy; and Qatar’s population of $1.7 million is by far the smallest to ever host a World Cup and involved a bid from an economy entirely built on a single industry (oil), 12 years in the future, that accompanied promises of outdoor stadiums built with air conditioners to combat the sweltering heat. Sounds like two bids that have failure written all over them. All of this was in the name of voters jockying for the favor of the outgoing FIFA President who has made it his mission to leave a legacy of taking the World Cup to the deepest corners of the world before his upcoming retirement.
These decisions need to take a serious stepback and rethink their criteria and rationale for choosing hosts. The politics need to be vacated and instead there needs to be a focus on what is the best for the athletes, spectators, and the event as a whole, rather than being in a constant battle to build reputations and brownie points.
The next big battle in this arena, that will show us how much attention these committees are really paying, is the selection for the 2018 Commonwealth Games that will take place in under a year. Click here to read about why the decision is obvious, and why the CG’s might fall into the trap and make another poor call.