FINA has officially announced the postponement of the 2022 World Championships to July, 2023.
The international governing body for 6 aquatic sports, including swimming, won’t hold its gala multi-sport event this year in Fukuoka. Instead, the 19th FINA World Aquatics Championships will be held from July 14-30, 2023 in Fukuoka, Japan. The meet was initially scheduled for 2021, but was postponed to May 2022 when the Olympics were moved to 2021. It is now being moved for a second time.
The previously-scheduled November 2023 World Championships in Doha, Qatar, will be moved to January 2024.
Updated World Championships Schedule:
- Fukuoka 2023 – July 14-30, 2023
- Doha 2024 – January
- Kazan 2025 – TBD
- Budapest 2027 – TBD
“FINA is in constant dialogue with athletes and coaches regarding the upcoming international aquatics competition calendar, with the goal of minimising the impact on athlete preparation and performance, while acknowledging the current health impacts of the Omicron COVID-19 variant,” the statement from FINA reads.
“FINA will continue to prioritise the welfare of competition participants and take decisions as early as possible given the circumstances, in order to provide a measure of certainty to aquatics athletes and those who support them,” said FINA President Husain Al-Musallam.
FINA did not confirm new dates for the FINA General Congress, FINA Technical Congresses, or the 19th World Masters Championships 2022.
The news, which was well-known by the time FINA made its announcement, should free national federations like USA Swimming to update their domestic swimming calendars. USA Swimming told SwimSwam last week that they would not announce any changes to their plans until FINA made its announcement official.
Other countries that previously had multiple international meets and, sometimes, multiple selection meets, like Australia, this will now free them to adjust calendars as well.
The postponement is due to the stringent COVID-19 restrictions Japan has been putting in place in light of a recent surge in cases caused by the Omicron variant.
A source tells SwimSwam that Japanese officials and FINA are currently in a stalemate of sorts as they try to land on new official dates for the Championships. With official contracts having already been signed before the pandemic was a known hurdle. FINA is unable to move the location to a new host until something in the contract is triggered. Meanwhile, Japan hasn’t actually blocked the competition from being hosted, but has implemented onerous restrictions that have made it incredibly difficult to lock in new dates.
This has pushed FINA into a corner, where the restrictions would make it very difficult to host the event in Fukuoka in May 2022, but where the contract makes it very difficult to pull the hosting duties from Fukuoka and move the meet elsewhere.
The source says that the Olympic Games were politically challenging, and while they happened, the country used most of its political capital with its citizenry on that event. That doesn’t leave much will-power to host a World Championships amid the global surge in new cases caused by the highly-infections Omicron variant, even though there was no evidence of spread between Olympic participants and the public last year.
The Pandemic in Japan
The Omicron variant that makes up most of the world’s cases of COVID-19 right now is highly virulent but also far less deadly than previous strains of the virus. Japan continues to see record infections, recording over 85,000 new cases on Monday, which is their highest level of the pandemic. That marks about 67 cases/100,000 residents, which is still one of the lowest levels among developed nations in the world.
In areas like South Africa and the northeastern United States, Omicron infections reached their peak 5-7 weeks after the virus was first detected.
The Beijing Olympic Games start this week in neighboring China with a ‘closed loop’ system being employed to attempt to mitigate the spread of the Omicron variant.
Several athletes took to social media on Tuesday to react to the news.
British breaststroker Adam Peaty, a favorite for multiple gold medals whenever the championships happen, said he was “disappointed,” but that it “is what it is.”
He questioned why there needed to be 3 World/Olympic Championships within 12 months. “Could be a good opportunity for (FINA) to try something new within that time frame.”