Rome could mark the last time that the world championships are held outdoors after FINA pointed to weather problems associated with global warming as a factor in their decision to seek cover.
"It is clear the weather is developing. We know things are getting hot around the world," said Cornel Marculescu, FINA executive director. "It's very difficult for us to organise this type of magnificent event outdoors. We are definitely going to indoor venues in the future."
Temperatures in Rome have soared into the high 30s C in the past few days but last weekend storms caused $100,000 worth of damage to the beach structures built for the open water events at Ostia. Weather problems have affected other swimming events in recent times. In Budapest in 2006, the Margaret Island venue, European championship finals had to be postponed one evening when a torrential downpour and accompanying gale-force winds swept through the Hungarian capital.
Dubai s/c in 2010, Shanghai worlds l/c in 2011, London 2012 Olympic Games and Istanbul world s/c in 2012 will all be held in doors. Dubai is building a $340m aquatic centre to house four disciplines for the world s/c championships next year, and Shanghai is spending a similar amount on a new complex for 2011, the director confirmed.
One other aspect of swimming outdoors was highlighted when Olympic champion Ryan Lochte (USA) revealed that he had been practising outdoors on backstroke for the past year specifically with a view to learning how to swim straight with only sky and sun above you. "It's going to be challenging for most swimmers because you don't have a ceiling to look at," he said. "When I was younger ... I never swam outside...so its hard for me but after Beijing I knew Rome was outside and have practiced mostly outside since and have learned to swim in a straight line."
His teammate and rival for the 200m crown, Aaron Peirsol, Olympic 100m champion, "grew up swimming outside". The hand of experience said: "The sun's going to be down after six, so it will be nice but it is a different dynamic that it adds to the race."
FINA praised the truly magnificent facilities of the Foro Italico and noted that this was the first championships at which the village atmosphere of housing four of the five FINA sports in the one venue had been possible. It was the model for future events, said Marculescu, though he recognised that it would not always be easy to find such circumstances.