Athens to the pool’s rescue

The government’s willingness to make the most of Greece’s existing Olympics-related infrastructure could land the country another major sporting event next summer, swimming’s world championships, after the sport’s international governing body, FINA, confiscated the event from the designated host, Montreal, due to its failure to raise enough money. FINA, which announced its decision yesterday, said it would accept new bids for the event and announce a new host by February 15. Earlier, Deputy Culture Minister Giorgos Orfanos, who holds the country’s sports portfolio, said the government would give its blessing to a bid by Greece’s swimming federation if Montreal was unable to raise the cash. After the news broke, Greek swimming federation spokesman Fotas Chitos said FINA had «proposed to us that we host the swimming championships and we referred the request to the government,» The Associated Press quoted him as saying. «We are prepared to host the event if it is not held in Montreal,» the report added. Prior to these latest developments, Greece had already submitted a bid to host the world championships in 2009. As part of the country’s wider effort to utilize existing Olympics infrastructure, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis backed a plan late last year for Greece to bid for soccer’s European Championships in 2012. At the time, he said Greece would push for more international sporting events. Montreal’s world championships were scheduled for July 17-31. There was no immediate comment from local organizers. Montreal is the first city to lose a major championship since London was dropped as host of the 2005 World Track and Field Championships in 2001 after plans for a national stadium were scrapped. Those championships were moved to Helsinki, Finland. Canadian organizers said they were $5 million short of meeting their 30-million-dollar budget. FINA said the unanimous decision of its 22-member executive bureau was made to maintain «the credibility of the world championships.» Besides Athens, Moscow and Long Beach, California, were also named as possible replacements. The Montreal event had been expected to attract 2,000 swimmers, coaches and officials to Quebec. It’s the latest blow to the Canadian city which lost the Expos baseball team to Washington, DC, following the 2004 season. The last world championships were held in 2003 in Barcelona. (Kathimerini, AP)