How Does FINA Issue Information On Open Water?

How Does FINA Issue Information On Open Water?

In a previous post about Rhys Mainstone’s victory in Hong Kong, we pointed out (here) about the dearth and delay of information provided by FINA about its sanctioned open water swimming competitions.

But how does FINA ultimately provide its information about each race that it governs?

Firstly, a little background is in order.

FINA sanctions and governs open water swims in Hong Kong, China, Mexico, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Serbia, and Macedonia. While FINA medical, safety and officiating judges ultimately rule over the competitions, it is the hard work of local organizers to host and put on the competition. The local organizers arrange for the local permits, volunteers, buoys and escort boats. Everything from the availability of the hotels and the transport of athletes to the venue to the marking of bodies and distribution of transponders is organized by the local hosts. However, the timing systems and the reporting of information is the responsibility of FINA. There is a very strict system in place to make judgment on the times and placings of each open water swimmer.

The swimmer is marked with a specific number and given a specific transponder. This information is consolidated by the timing company. When the athlete finishes, his or her time and place are recorded by the Chief Recorder. After all the athletes have been accounted for, they are given a specific time and place or designation (DNS for Did Not Start, DNF for Did Not Finish, or OTL for Over Time Limit) by the Head Referee. Sometimes this takes minutes; sometimes it takes hours depending on whether or not it was a close race. If it was a close race, then the Head Referee reviews the videotape of the finish and assigns the final placing based on his review of the videotape.

Once this information is completed, the Head Referee officially signs the results and it is passed to the local organizer. The organizer then announces the winners and distributes the cash prizes accordingly. If the organizer distributes the information to the local press, the local media occasionally distributes this information as they see fit in their own language.

Then the official results are faxed or emailed to FINA’s head office by the FINA Delegate assigned to this role at the venue. Since most of the FINA open water races are held over the weekend, the fax or email is reviewed by FINA officials in Lausanne, Switzerland and a press release is written and issued usually by the following Monday.

The media representatives who receive this press release are then free to distribute this information. But the press releases only state the top 3 finishers and their times. None of the other finishers’ places or times are made available and nothing is posted on the FINA website.

The public, media and fans are left to find out what happened by checking messages and posts on Facebook or receiving tweets or texts from the individual athletes. This is no way to make stars and heroes out of the world’s fastest marathon swimmers. We need to learn more about these young men and women who are committed, courageous and colorful.

In this day of online social and instantaneous global communication, this dearth and delay of information should not be an issue. This lack of support does not happen with FINA’s elite pool swimmers, divers, water polo players or synchronized swimmers. The situation can be easily and immediately resolved by Cornel Marculescu, the Executive Director of FINA, who has the sole authority to improve the system.

After the official results are accepted and approved by the FINA Delegate, the full result list should be made available to interested media representatives who can then immediately post and distribute the information.

Fans would be happier and better informed. Friends could congratulate or commiserate with the swimmers. Families should be able to immediately know how their swimmers did in faraway lands.

This is an easy solution to resolve and Marculescu could significantly help develop the fascinating world of professional marathon swimming.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source