Swimming Retains "Second Tier" Status for 2012 Games

On Tuesday, the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations, which represents the 26 sports that will be a part of the 2012 Olympic program in London, rejected a call from FINA to alter the revenue sharing structure. FINA is the governing body for diving, open water swimming, synchronized swimming, and water polo, in addition to swimming.

“Athletics,”  which is made up of track & field, the marathon, and race-walking events, remains the sole “top-tier” sport, which means their governing body, the IAAF, will receiver $35.77 million, up from $29 million in 2008.

The following tier-2 sports, including aquatics, will receive $18.73 million dollars, up from $14.27 million in 2008: Aquatics, basketball, cycling, football (soccer), gymnastics, tennis, and volleyball.

FINA president Julio Maglione believes that, based on the huge ratings that swimming received (thanks in no small part to the Michael Phelps phenomenon) should warrant them a bigger share of the pie. Many federations felt that athletics receiving nearly double the amount of money of hugely popular Olympic competitions like swimming and gymnastics was too much of a gap. FINA received support from a few other federations, including handball and table tennis (swimming and ping-pong have made strange bedfellows before), but not enough to sway the opinion of the association.

As an example of this, at the 2008 Olympics, NBC’s prime-time viewership was up 7% over the 2004 Athens games during the first week, which is when swimming took place. For the rest of the games, including those where track & field events were contested, only 1 day saw an increase over the Athens games.

The IOC first implemented it’s revenue -sharing formula, based heavily on TV ratings, ticket sales, and attendance, at the 1996 Atlanta games. Track and field has been rated as the number 1 sport at every Olympics since.

While I recognize that Track & Field is still a huge draw internationally, which is what brings in a ton of the media money that is being distributed, it seems that the gap is too large considering the huge explosion of popularity swimming has seen in recent years. Furthermore, diving, which is also run by FINA, has huge popularity in China, which is the biggest market in the world. Even if swimming/diving/water polo doesn’t deserve an equal share as athletics, it should certainly receive more than half of what athletics receives.

The ASOIF has said it will revisit the issue after the 2012 games, although I wonder if at that point they will use the justification that swimming will see a drop off in popularity after Phelps’ retirement.

For those who are curious, the tier-3 sports of rowing, equestrian, handball and field hockey will receive $13.17 million each (up from $9.61 million in 2008). The tier-4 sports of boxing, badminton, canoeing, fencing, judo, wrestling, modern pentathlon, table tennis, shooting, archery, weightlifting, sailing, taekwondo and triathlon will receive $11.19 million each.

What do you think, are the dispersals fair, or should swimming receive a bigger chunk?

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About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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