SPORTS

No roof, no problem, Australian coach says

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Swimmers will set world records at this year’s Athens Olympics despite organizers scrapping plans for a roof over the outdoor pool, Australia head coach Leigh Nugent said yesterday. Swimming’s world governing body FINA said on Monday it was surprised and disappointed a temporary roof would not be built to protect competitors and spectators from the sun. However, Nugent, whose team is set to include world-record holders Ian Thorpe (200 and 400 meters freestyle) and Grant Hackett (1,500m freestyle), said the Australians were confident competitors would be protected from the heat during the August Games. «The roof was supposed to be built but I’m sure they’re not going to leave the athletes out there to fry in the sun,» Nugent told reporters in a teleconference. Nugent said cold water would be automatically added to the pool if it grew warmer than 27 degrees Celsius and that the waiting room for competitors would be air conditioned. «They’re not going to be sitting out there stressing just prior to their event in blazing sun so I would think that the athletes will cope and we will see world records,» Nugent said. «It’s going to be a wonderful Olympics for swimming, no doubt about that. I think we can focus on some things and make big issues out of them when they’re things that are manageable. They’re not a problem.» Organizers said last week they had abandoned plans to build a roof above the outdoor pool because there was not enough time to finish it before the August 13-29 Games. Nugent said he had visited the Olympic pool in Athens earlier this month and been assured by officials that adequate shade would be provided for swimmers. «I have no reason to disbelieve them. I think we’ve got to have faith in the Athens organizing committee,» he said. Thorpe’s coach Tracey Menzies said earlier this month her swimmers had been training in the expectation that a makeshift, open-ended tarpaulin roof would be used to cover the venue. «I’ve already prepared my athletes for no shade cloth,» Menzies told reporters ahead of the Australian Olympic trials which start on Saturday in Sydney. Nugent also expressed confidence in security arrangements for the Athens Olympics. «They’re spending a huge amount of money on security over there. I think we’ll be well looked after,» Nugent told reporters. NATO said on March 17 it would respond positively to Greece’s request for help in guarding the Athens Games and was working urgently to provide sea and air patrols, and protection against terrorist attacks. An Olympic security test operation involving several hundred American troops started on March 10, the day after Greece’s new conservative Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis took personal control of the Games. «(The Athens organizers) are not going to leave us in a situation where we’re at risk,» Nugent said. «We’ve got to adopt the attitude that they’re going to do their job and we’re going to do ours. It’s not for us to tell them how to do it. We’ve been guaranteed security will be the absolute best.» Nugent said the Australian Olympic Committee would send extra security staff to Athens. International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said last month he was happy with arrangements put in place by the Greek government for the Olympics. A suspected Al Qaeda-linked attack that killed 202 people and wounded more than 1,800 more on four packed commuter trains on March 11 in Madrid has heightened security fears ahead of the Athens Games.