Might major international swimming be finally coming back to the United states? According to a FINA press release, Houston is one of 8 interested cities to host either the 2016 or 2018 World Short Course Championship meet, which is held every-other year in a 25 meter pool.
This would be huge news for the United States; though this is the lesser of the two versions of the World Championships, it would bring a major
global championship back to the United States for the first time since the 2004 version of this meet that was held in Indianapolis.
Other bidders include:
- Eindhoven, Netherlands
- Hong Kong
- Windsor, Canada
- Abu Dhabi, UAE
- China (city TBD)
- Christchurch, New Zealand
- Gold Coast, Australia
We’re still working on finding out details about Houston’s bid, but there are several facilities that could be at least the foundation of this bid – keeping in mind that unlike the long course event, these World Championships in short course are swimming-only (with no water polo, diving, synchronized swimming, or open water swimming). That includes the gorgeous facility at the University of Houston or the new center in Conroe, a northern suburb. While both great natatrioums, neither of those facilities is anywhere near the 15,000 seats that were built for the version in 2010 in Dubai. Not that we need as much capacity as there was in the Dubai Sports Complex, as that facility was only half-full most of the time, but 1,000 spectator seats won’t be sufficient.
Alternatively, Houston could insert a pool into the Toyota Center, which is the 18,000 seat home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets and the minor league hockey team the Aeros. But even that is unlikely, with the meet typically being held in December in the midst of both of those teams’ seasons.
Other possibilities are a number of massive, high school arenas around the area that are looking to make big dents in recouping initial costs. That includes the 11,000 seat Berry Center in the Northwest Suburbs of Cy-Fair that currently hosts high school events, concerts, and indoor football: all events that are more likely to be disrupted than are the NBA season.
As for other bidders, I think most fans are a bit burned-out on China, and there is still a lot of animosity against the UAE as the hosts of the tragic event that cost Fran Crippen his life. New Zealand swimming has been in an upheaval, and organization of an event on this scale could be dicey.
The Gold Coast, Australia will be looking to fill its new infrastructure that it is building for the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Eindhoven is a swimming-mad city and would certainly turn out to support the event. It also has a large enough swimming base to justify the costs.
Canada hosted the 2005 World Championships in long course, but that event to this day has left them in a hole financially. And that’s the challenge. It’s difficult to make money off of the long course world championships, but a short course meet is nearly impossible outside of countries where the sport is still developing (the UAE, for example) and there’s a long-term boost that can be given to swimming.
The meets will be awarded on December 11th, 2012 in Istanbul when FINA arrives there for this year’s version of the event. Houston, Hong Kong, Dutch, and Canadian delegations were present in Switzerland on June 29th to present their bids in person