US television rights holder NBC had been lobbying heavily for early finals in Beijing to coincide with prime-time viewing hours in the United States, with many observers feeling the IOC caved to the broadcaster rather than taking athletes’ preferences in to consideration.
Alan Thompson, Australian head coach, had anticipated the IOC’s decision, but his swimmers are unlikely to have a practice run at the upside-down schedule at their national trials, which normally aim to simulate the Olympic program, reports said.
Glenn Tasker, Swimming Australia chief executive, said he expected opposition from coaches, but could not see how the trials could be run successfully with main events held in non-peak viewing times.
“We have only discussed this informally, but internally our discussions have been, ‘If we turn our trials upside down, we will struggle to make them commercially viable’,” Tasker told The Melbourne Age on Saturday.
“We swim our trials at the Sydney Olympic Aquatic Centre, which is still the best pool in the world, but when you go to the best pool in the world, you pay a fairly steep price for it.
“If we swam finals at 10 o’clock in the morning, our athletes would be swimming in front of next to no one. There would be no atmosphere, we wouldn’t get a gate, so commercially it would hurt us.
“It would hurt the athletes from having no atmosphere. So without finalising our discussions, I would be very loath to change our trials,” Tasker added.
“I know Alan (Thompson) would be very keen to mirror the program, and we have discussed it, but he would need to have some very compelling arguments to get us to go the other way.”
Opposed to the decision
Australian swimmer Grant Hackett
Swimming Australia held a workshop in Sydney on Saturday where the country’s elite coaches were briefed by former rowing head coach Brian Richardson, as rowing is one of the few sports that routinely holds its Olympic finals in the morning.
Australian Grant Hackett and Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband, along with other high-profile swimmers, have been opposed to the IOC’s decision, while Ian Pope, leading Australian swim coach, said he would switch his squad’s race-specific training to the mornings in the months before the Beijing Olympics.
“We have a lot of our quality training more of an evening, so what we would do to help simulate that race-specific training, we would encourage doing a lot of that speed-work in the morning,” Pope said.
“That conditions them both mentally and physically into the preparation for Beijing.
“For some people, it is a mental block, but I think most people won’t have a problem with it. When it comes to an Olympic Games, it’s really who can get the gold.”
The Games of the 29th Olympiad will take place in Beijing from August 8 to 24, 2008.