The Olympics of the modern era restarted in 1896 and became one of the most successful sport events of mankind along with the Tour de France and the FIFA Soccer World Championships. Since then several continents and communities has developed similar multisport events like the Asiads, Pan-American Games, All-Africa Games and Pacific Games.
The European Olympic Committees (EOC) decided to create such an event in 2012 with Baku, Azerbaijan as its host. Sports are a strategic industry in Azerbaijan, they have applied for the organising rights of the Olympics twice recently with no luck. There was no other competitior for the hosts of the 1st European Games and Netherlands had withdrawn as hosts of the 2019 European Games considering 57,5 000 000 Euros are too much to spend on mini-Olympics so Baku might be in for a second round in 4 years not having problems spending 10 000 000 000 dollars on an impressive celebration of sports this year.
The actual value of the EG brand is hard to measure at this point. There aren’t many other countries which could or would finance such grandiosity. The organisers created a different venue compared to the Olympics, encouraged as many participiants as possible to take part whiler the qualification was much easier, so the Games were more of a huge PR event than a series of actual competitions, also a stepping stone for smaller, obscure sports like sambo and finswimming. Issue was that otherwise popular sports got left out or degraded.
The overall ranking shows that Russians placed 1st with 79 gold medals, 31 only in swimming, Azerbaijan placed second with 21 gold medals. Despite the nice initiative to incorporate parasports, the high number of sports (293 gold medals were handed out), countries (50) and athletes (6000+) present, the 1st European Games seemed to lack prestige and therefore real interest from viewers and sportfans.
Anna Arzhanova, Russian president of one of the international underwater sport federations (CMAS), which represents underwater rugby and underwater hockey, announced on the 2nd of March that finswimming events will be hosted in Baku.
Unfortunately no word was said about UW Games taking part as well, while there were teams who were willing to take the great opportunity to demonstrate these amazing sports to the world also Baku organisers were open to host such events as long as they were represented by their international federations. As far as I know the UW Games community wasn’t informed of the event in advance.
In a way, Baku was a success for finswimming. Russia’s Pavel Kabanov set a new world record in the men’s 50m race. On a larger scale, CMAS didn’t manage to create a large splash with a new world record at a 10 000 000 000 $ event, and missed a great chance for its 2 other largest sports. Finswimmers and finmakers recognise that CMAS supressing UWH and UWR does not benefit finswimming but has the very opposite effect.
Meanwhile CMAS applied to be present as Olympic sports in 2020 Tokyo, again with finswimming only, but got rejected again. The reason was probably the same as the one before and before… Finswimming „did not indicate a higher level of global participation and interest than sports currently in the Programme.”
There is very little transparency and available information due to the lack of communication and cooperation between UWR/UWH teams and CMAS. I’ve sent an inquiry to CMAS about Baku but have received no answer at all.
CMAS doesn’t seem to recognise that both sports spread out to just as many countries (29-30) as finswimming without any aid of the international federation, despite the lack of technical opportunities to be properly broadcasted, just because more and more people find these sports amazing and start playing. Only finswimming bears IOC recognition at this point, but it has a lot to do with the fact that there was no attempt to gain recognition for UWH or UWR yet.
No wonder FINA handles its sports as a whole package : diving, synchro swimming or polo would not have the same recognition without swimming, but neither would swimming be so popular without its spin-offs. If a similar concept would be followed, probably no such issue would need to be dealt with as the one we have been facing. Many athletes loose interest in the sport, or they keep playing for fun but get used to this situation and loose faith in the governing body.
We are bound to CMAS, but being more active may lead to CMAS recognising how valuable assets these two sports are in addition to finswimming, and start representing them with responsibility as it is supposed to be the most important task of a federation. Also I would encourage everyone to take more initiative for our sports and dare to ask the national and international federations how we should work together for our progress.
But don’t be too disappointed, check out the video of Kabanov as he sets the new world record.
The quality is great and their smooth swimming style is really impressive. Watching this makes me wish for a change in the federations approach which would unite our sports.