LONDON (Reuters) - Plans to hold late night swimming finals at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics are “outrageous”, says England swimming’s head coach Jon Rudd, joining a growing campaign opposing the plan.
A final competition schedule has yet to be officially approved by the International Olympic Committee but they said on Friday that a proposal to hold later medal races to fit mainly with American television had been accepted.
The plans, which would see some finals start as late as 2200 local time to maximise audiences in the United States, have already drawn criticism from Australia Olympic Committee President John Coates, who said it would place an “unreasonable demand” on athletes.
Rudd has now added his voice to the ‘Say No to Night Swimming’ campaign that is gathering pace among competitors and coaches across the world.
“It’s outrageous. The best way to describe it is disrespectful to athletes, disrespectful to the event and what the Olympics means,” he told website swimvortex.com.
Rudd, who also mentors Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte, the Olympic 100 metres breaststroke champion, said there would be serious issues caused by the late night finals because swimmers would not finish until the early hours of the morning after they had warmed down and faced the media.
“If you are asking me is it the right decision and were the swimmers consulted and were the swimmers’ performances thought about in that decision then, no,” Rudd said.
”Now we’ll get on with it but it’s a shame that that is the decision we’ve come to as a sport.
”It’s a really disappointing outcome. There also seems to be a lot of smoke and mirrors: IOC saying it’s FINA, FINA saying it’s IOC and then both saying the athletes are fine with it when they are clearly not. It’s a shame.
“For a lot of guys it will be the pinnacle of their careers and they don’t get the right environment to maybe produce the performances you’d hope they’d produce,” he added.
This is not the first time the timing of the swimming finals at the Olympics has been criticised, with the Beijing 2008 Games switching finals to the morning to coincide with prime-time viewing in the U.S. despite some complaints from athletes.
Medal races at the 2012 Games in London started no later than 2100 local time.
Editing by Ossian Shine