SPORTS

Swimmers say it feels great being outdoors

Olympic swimmers aren’t losing their cool over the lack of a lid at the Athens Games pool. Plans for the roof – on the model of the covered pools at the 1996 and 2000 Games – were scrapped in the organizers’ last-ditch scramble to complete the Athens venues. The move sparked some dire predictions as to the ill effects of Athens summer weather. Certainly temperatures will be high as the mid- to late-morning sun beats down on the heats. Intermittent messages on the pool scoreboards urge spectators to drink water, wear hats and apply sunscreen. But the finals have been moved back to 7:30 p.m., when the sun has slipped behind the towering stands to leave the pool in a balmy, if sometimes breezy shade. «We think it’s great weather,» Australian swimming coach Leigh Nugent said. «The evenings are great, the mornings are beautiful. From 10 [a.m.] to 1 [p.m.], you’re going to be in the sun,» Nugent said. «We’ll try to keep them out of the stands as much as we can and in the shade.» He said the swim team will have 15 of the Australian contingent’s special cooling jackets, with pockets to hold frozen gel packs, just in case they are needed. While the later start time makes heat less of a factor in the finals, evenings in the week before the Games have been windy. «The wave resistance is quite a significant factor, so if it chops up a bit it will be a factor,» Nugent said. «We don’t get a tailwind advantage because we go both ways – maybe in the 50m it could have an effect.» Some have suggested the lack of a roof might be most problematic for backstrokers, who have to contend with the sun in their eyes, or perhaps for swimmers from colder climates less used to swimming outdoors. «No roof won’t be a problem whatsoever,» said Britain’s James Hickman. «In Great Britain, the pools are indoor, but since we travel away, swimming outdoors is not an issue for us anymore.» The bottom line, Nugent said, is that it is up to all the competitors to cope with whatever conditions arise. «At the Olympics,» Nugent said, «you’ve got to be on your game regardless.» And, Nugent noted, swimmers have been posting fast times without benefit of roofs for years. «There have been a lot of world records set in outdoor pools,» Nugent said. (AFP)