The postponement of the 2022 FINA World Aquatics Championships to 2023 has been confirmed, per Russian Swimming Federation President and FINA Bureau member Vladimir Salnikov.
Following the reports that came out on Friday, indicating the event would be pushed back one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Salnikov confirmed the news to Russia’s official state news agency TASS.
“The FINA bureau met Friday and voted to postpone the World Championships to 2023 due to the pandemic and other issues related to organizing the arrival and accommodation of participants in the coronavirus environment,” Salnikov told TASS. “No alternative options for the World Championships were presented.”
The World Championships were scheduled for May 13-29, 2022.
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.
FINA has reportedly floated the idea of October 2022 and July 2023 as potential new dates to national federations, but according to Salnikov, 2022 is no longer in the cards. Other sources have indicated that the FINA focus right now is on 2023.
While logistically a meet could probably be organized somewhere new in four months, especially somewhere that has recently hosted, finding a host city that is willing to make the financial commitment – the primary economic driver of most FINA-hosted meets – on short notice is substantially more difficult.
The initial report on Friday, first reported by Swim Channel‘s Alex Pussieldi, did indicate that July 2023 would be the new date, which Salnikov confirms. Several other federations have previously confirmed the news to SwimSwam, but only as anonymous sources.
As a result, the previously-scheduled Worlds for November 2023 in Doha, Qatar were expected to be moved to January 2024, though that hasn’t been confirmed and wasn’t addressed by Salnikov.
According to Inside The Games, FINA is expected to announce an alternative event “to offer competitors the opportunity to compete at a high level,” in the coming days. The majority of top swimming nations will have the opportunity to race in an international meet in 2022, such as the European Championships, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, but others, including the United States, don’t.
Japan currently has a seven-day rolling average of over 40,000 new daily cases of COVID-19, or 33 per 100,000 people, the highest since the pandemic started. On January 22, the nation reported an all-time high of 54,000+ new cases, or nearly 43 per 100,00 people.
The World Championships in Fukuoka were originally scheduled to take place in the summer of 2021, but were moved back to May 2022 due to the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games.