In a dramatic change to previous seasons, the Fina/Arena World Swimming Championships will be held over five weeks rather than several months, as was the case between 2003 and 2006.
And, on a revised schedule, Durban will host the first leg of the seven events on October 19 and 20, with the others scheduled to follow in rapid succession in Singapore, Sydney, Moscow, Stockholm, Berlin and Belo Horizonte in Brazil.
Under the guidance of main sponsor Telkom and its support base, the event was officially launched in Durban on Thursday. It was also confirmed that Durban will remain a host city of the world championships for the three years to 2009.
Prize money has been dramatically increased and Fina has also arranged for a ”star race” to be introduced, in which up-and-coming world-class swimmers will be pitted against the current champions in a specific event at each tournament.
In Durban, it will be the men’s 100m backstroke in which South Africa’s Gerhard Zandberg will go up against world number one Arkady Vyatchzanin of Russia, American Randall Bal and fellow South Africans George du Rand and Garth Tune.
Swedish swimmers Theresa Alshammer, Anna-Karin Kammerling and Petra Granlund are the star attractions in the 50m butterfly in a line-up that includes Mzarina Maravcova of Slovakia and South Africans Many Loots, Chanelle van Wyk, Keri Shaw and Lize-Marie Retief.
Other champions travelling to Durban include Australian Sophie Edington, Natalie Coughlin from the United States and Melissa Corfe (South Africa).
So far, 16 countries have entered to compete in the world championships, which will be swum in a pool that is 25m in length and comprising eight lanes. Heats will be swum at 10am on both days, with the finals beginning at 5.30pm.
Ticket prices have been kept at R10 per adult with children admitted free as it is felt that the world championships provide an excellent opportunity to further swimming as an attraction to the youth of the country while serving as a build-up to the Beijing Olympics next year. — Sapa