Istanbul to host swimming’s top stars next month

Istanbul to host swimming’s top stars next month

Istanbul to host swimming’s top stars next month

Five-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Ryan Lochte will lead the ill at next month’s FINA Short Course World Championships.

Istanbul is ready to host the world’s top swimmers at the 2012 FINA Short Course Swimming World Championships to be held next month.

Around 900 athletes, including Olympic champions such as U.S. swimming icon Ryan Lochte, France’s Florent Manaudou, Italian Federica Pellegrini and Hungarian Laszlo Cseh, will take to the pool at the Sinan Erdem Dome in Istanbul.

“[The sport’s world governing body] FINA is very happy to be here,” FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu said at a press conference in Istanbul yesterday. “Everybody knows that Istanbul is a sports city. Swimmers from around 160 federations will enjoy Turkish hospitality.”

The tournament will be held at the Sinan Erdem Dome, a multi-functional sports hall in Istanbul. Originally made for basketball games, the dome has been serving as a tennis court for the WTA Championships over the past two years. Following the year-end tournament in women’s tennis, extensive work was undertaken to turn the dome into a swimming arena in just seven days, “a record time” according to the organization committee.

‘Fantastic dome’

Marculescu welcomed the project that transformed the dome. “This fantastic dome will show that swimming can be done anywhere,” he said.

Ozan Çetiner, the head of the Youth and Sports Ministry’s Sports Activities Department, said that the tournament is “a milestone” on Istanbul’s road to the 2020 Olympics.

“We believe that we will win the bid for the 2020 Olympics,” Çetiner said. “The FINA Short Course Swimming World Championships will be a milestone toward winning the bid next year.”

The tournament may also be a jumping-off point for the swimming scene in Turkey. “The tournament will boost swimming in the country. I believe kids will be inspired by watching top stars and will start swimming,” Turkish Swimming Federation (TYF) chairman Ahmet Bozdoğan said.

The chairman also added that he expected important performances from Turkish swimmers, starting with the European Short Course Championships, which begins tomorrow in Chartres, France.

“We have always wished but never attained medals or finals in swimming,” Bozdoğan said. “We know it takes time, but in the European Championships I believe we will have swimmers advance to the finals and chase medals.”

Bozdoğan refused to name names but said he expected achievements in the 100m freestyle and 50m backstroke, implying that Burcu Dolunay and Hazal Sarıkaya, respectively, will be medal contenders in France before Istanbul.