FINA: Interview with Executive Director Marculescu at Doha World Cup
AJU GEORGE CHRIS / Doha Stadium Plus
October 10 - As the FINA Arena World Cup’s second leg unfolded at the Hamad Aquatic Centre in Doha last week, an elderly gentleman seemed radiating with pride.
The world governing body’s Executive Director Cornel Marculescu, 71, had reasons to be so, having closely associated with the championship since it started in 1988.
The former Romanian water polo player waxed eloquent about legendary Michael Phelps, the eight-leg World Cup, its growth potential and future plans in an exclusive interview with Doha Stadium Plus. Read on.
What’re your observations about the Doha leg of the FINA Arena World Cup?
It was well organised and there were several strong performers. Hungarian Katinka Hosszu looked good to me both in Dubai and Doha.
I spoke to many swimmers and they were unanimous in applauding Qatar’s facilities. However, Doha could’ve worked harder to attract spectators. In the future, they should focus on that.
Introducing races for local swimmers before the start of each day’s World Cup competitions will be a good idea. It’ll attract crowd and give youngsters a better sense of involvement.
How do you see the Middle East’s growing importance?
FINA focuses on three important regions for growth — the Middle East, Asia and Europe. Doha and Dubai possess excellent aquatic centres. I don’t see any other city coming close, in terms of facilities, in the near future. They’re very much a part of our long-term plans.
The World Cup legs are being held so close to one another. Won’t it affect performances of the swimmers?
FINA has a very crowded calendar. For a swimmer, it isn’t easy to compete in one city, get back home and leave for another country in a totally different direction. So it’s always better for competitors to have events in neighbouring countries, like the UAE and Qatar, within a minimum possible time frame. We won’t add a ninth leg to the World Cup as it’ll make the calendar more complicated.
The mixed relays at the World Cup seem to have turned out to be a hit…
It was widely appreciated when we first tried it out at the ’10 Singapore Youth Olympic Games. There’re lots of tactics involved in it, contested over four laps of 50M each with the teams free to decide whether to field a man against man or woman.
We then tried it at the World Cup and the responses so far have been very favourable.
We’ll discuss whether it can be introduced at the Short Course World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey, in December.
On Michael Phelps…
He’s simply the best to have graced our sport. Winning 22 Olympic medals (18 gold, two silver and as many bronze) isn’t a joke. I don’t see his record being broken anytime soon.
But, there’re many young and upcoming talents. Phelps’s records will act as a constant source of inspiration for them. We aren’t going to let Phelps move away from swimming. He’ll be involved with FINA in some capacity or other. He’s a big role model.
Has the sport seen erosion in popularity of late?
Not at all. Swimming is popular because a person, irrespective of whether he’s five or 100, can still practise it. Thousands of elderly competitors took part in the FINA Masters Championships in Sweden two years ago. In ’15, for the first time, we’ll hold it in Kazan, Russia, just after the World Aquatics Championships. The same officials and pools are to be used for both competitions. It’ll add value to the Worlds and the social impact will be huge.
Did the sport lose credibility over its swimsuit controversies?
Personally, I don’t think so. I feel the media manipulated the issue to make it sound too controversial. Does anyone know the amount of training each high-performance swimmer undergo? It’s almost 15 to 20km every day throughout his/her career. When you train so much, how much difference can a specific model of swimsuit make? If I wear such a swimsuit, can you expect me to break world records? I don’t think so. One shouldn’t dismiss the amount of hard work each swimmer puts in.
Several people said world records set using the controversial swimsuits couldn’t be broken for a long time. But in London, nine world and 25 Olympic records were set. It just means one thing — swimmers world over are evolving fast. They’re getting better trained to set excellent times.
Doha lost out to Shanghai in the race to host the ’11 Aquatic Worlds. Do you see the Qatari capital winning it someday?
Doha has every facility in place to organise such a major event. There’re several swimming and diving pools at the Hamad Aquatic Centre as well as ASPIRE Academy. There’re many beaches that can host open water events.
I feel Doha should take things step by step. Hosting the ’14 Short Course World Championships will better-equip the city for bigger events.
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