World Aquatics Projects Biggest Field in World Championship History for Doha

While much of the focus and conversation a week out from the start of the World Championships is about who won’t be there, World Aquatics is still projecting a record field, both in number of countries and number of participating athletes, for the upcoming Doha World Championships.

World Aquatics released its media guide this week, which lists number of participating countries and athletes for each edition of the World Championships. For 2024, they list 2,603 athletes from 197 countries.

Many top swimmers aren’t participating in the meet, but the event is an Olympic qualification event in four of the other five disciplines on offer.

  • Water polo – 6 men’s spots, 3 women’s spots (including countries that qualify just by participating)
  • Open Water – 18 men’s spots, 18 women’s spots
  • Diving – 4 national quota spots per synchro event, 12 national quota spots per individual event
  • Artistic Swimming – 5 open team spots, 3 women’s duet spots

Still, with swimming as the biggest number at the World Championships, and fewer swimmers expected to compete versus normal, these projections seem unlikely.

While it remains to be seen if the numbers released in the media guide for 2024 come to fruition or are wishful marketing thinking, the guide gives a historical look at participation levels for different World Championships.

The first event in 1973 saw 47 countries and 696 athletes participate. It was an inauspicious start for the event, with the number of participating athletes and countries decreasing for the 1986 event in Madrid.

After a hiatus, though, momentum really took off in 1991 with the event breaking 1,000 athletes for the first time. 1,119 athletes from 84 participating nations competed in Perth, Australia in 1991, marking a turning point for the event. It was so successful that the event came back in 1998.

Spain hit another watershed in 2003, for the positive, when Barcelona hosted the first event with over 2,000 athletes.

The previous record for most participating athletes was the 2009 World Championships where records were broken by the bucket-full during the peak of the polyurethane suit era. Things quieted for a few editions after that, but for the last few World Championships (save the 2022 event coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic) the event has hovered around 2,300-2,400 athletes.

World Aquatics currently has 209 member federations (not all are sovereign countries, per se, such as Puerto Rico or the Faroe Islands), of which 197 are expected to participate in Doha. That’s a 94.2% participation rate. As a point of comparison, the World Athletics Championships last year had 202 participants of 214 member federations, an almost-identical 94.4% participation rate for a set of sports that are generally viewed as much more accessible.

Participation History, World Aquatics Championships

Host Participating Countries Athletes
1973 Belgrade, Yugoslavia 47 696
1975 Cali, Colombia 39 682
1978 Berlin, West Germany 49 828
1982 Guayaquil, Ecuador 52 848
1986 Madrid, Spain 39 682
1991 Perth, Australia 84 1119
1994 Rome, Italy 102 1382
1998 Perth, Australia 119 1371
2001 Fukuoka, Japan 134 1498
2003 Barcelona, Spain 158 2017
2005 Montreal, Canada 144 1784
2007 Melbourne, Australia 167 2158
2009 Rome, Italy 172 2438
2011 Shanghai, China 178 2157
2013 Barcelona, Spain 177 2195
2015 Kazan, Russia 184 2412
2017 Budapest, Hungary 182 2303
2019 Gwangju, South Korea 192 2418
2022 Budapest, Hungary 180 2097
2023 Fukuoka, Japan 191 2361
2024 Doha, Qatar 197 2603

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5 months ago

The AUS swimming team is watching the AUS football team playing Indonesia in the Asian Cup in Qatar….just popped up on TV.

5 months ago

Not sure how much of a difference it would have made, but if Doha had added some prize money as the host (they can afford it) in addition to the FINA prize money which has been about the same for a few years, maybe that would have enticed a few more to participate?

The prize money has remained about the same since 2015 which saw a big increase over 2013 (but I did not find 2011 and earlier so I do not what the payout was at that point).

For that timeframe, from late summer 2015 to the end of 2023, CPI in the USA was over 28%, so an increase by more than that could have been good… Read more »

5 months ago

I frequently get more pleasure from watching Junior Nationals than nationals because of the breakout swims. I am hopeful that this meet will provide some of those, rather than big name showdowns, which often don’t materialize anyway because of scratches. The Olympics will provide those for us in good time.

5 months ago

I suppose a lot of swimmers will go hunting for an Olympic Qualification time, and teams hunting for relay places. This of course doesnt affect the US and AUS.

Last edited 5 months ago by Torchbearer
5 months ago

If there’s a world record or two FINA might feel justified on hosting this event so close to Paris

Reply to  Verram
5 months ago

My money is on Cam McEvoy

5 months ago

Everyone knew from the start that the date/timing of this event was going to compromise the quality at the very highest levels — OK! What I hope we see that some new swimmers who haven’t had that ‘break thru’ moment in their careers, get that opportunity. So, yes, I’m tuning in for the possibility of a nice surprise!

Small Edit
5 months ago

’86 was Madrid and ’91 was Perth

5 months ago

Quantity > Quality

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of 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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