Yesterday saw media reports that the Hungarian Swimming Federation had asked the European Swimming League (LEN) to reconsider Israel’s hosting of the 2015 European Short Course Championships, scheduled to take place in Netanya December 2nd-6th.
The event, budgeted at an estimated 10 million shekels ($2.6 million), will be held at the Wingate Institute, Israel’s National Center for Physical Education and Sport. Over 50 countries are expected to attend, and, based on the FINA points, the top 12 finishers overall will receive a prize money endowment.
The Algemeiner was one news source who reported yesterday that the Hungarian Swimming Federation was trying to convince the LEN to enable Hungary to replace Israel as the championship host, citing security concerns in the Middle Eastern region. Within the article, the Israeli Swimming Federation is quoted as responding with, “The Hungarians are trying to steal our [opportunity] to host the event.”
The two nations have a history in hosting; Laka Balaton, Hungary took over hosting duties for the inaugural Junior Open Water World Championships in 2014 due to what FINA referred to as an “unstable and unpredictable situation in the region.” At the time, fighting between Israel and Palestine had escalated, resulting in fatalities on both sides, including a member of the Israel National Water Polo team.
Responding to SwimSwam’s inquiries, Israel 2015 Championship spokesperson, Gil Lebanony, said of the possible controversy, “We heard the same reports. We spoke with the LEN president [Paolo Barelly] who denied these reports.”
Further, Lebanony told SwimSwam that Barelly had written the Israeli host organization directly with the following statement, “Even though LEN is careful following the international news, it has not started any consultation about an alternative venue instead of Netanya for the next European Short Course Swimming Championships (2-6 December)”.
This championship has been swirled in controversy since it was announced. The meet was originally scheduled for January 15th-18th, 2015, but was postponed until this December date.