Rowing course of the Olympic Games 2028: shortened for logistics and exposure reasons | Olympia


As a founding sport of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1896, rowing has a special place in the history of the modern Olympic Games. While bad weather postponed the first Olympic rowing race from 1896 to 1900, World Rowing was the first international sports association to join the modern Olympic movement and legitimize the rebirth of the ancient Greek sports tournament. However, this tradition seems to be shaken at first glance, as World Rowing announced that it would shorten the Olympic distance from 2,000 meters to 1,500 meters due to the challenging logistics of the Los Angeles venue in 2028.

Los Angeles 2028 was originally slated to be in Riverside County’s Lake Perris State Recreation Area, which could have hosted the standard distance, but was deemed too far away. It was 80 miles (129 km) from the main host city, and organizers were also concerned about the cost of building additional infrastructure, including another athletes’ village. Instead, Long Beach is now the preferred location in the heart of Los Angeles County, much closer to the action, making it more attractive to sponsors. It will also be more cost effective as the area will also host handball, triathlon, open water swimming, BMX and water polo.

Long Beach actually did rowing the full 2,000-meter distance at the 1932 LA Olympics, but the construction of a bridge has since partially blocked the first quarter of the route, leaving only three full-length lanes instead of the required eight To be available .

It’s hard to say how massive this change will be for rowers.

Unlike in athletics, there are no other distance categories in rowing, as all athletes train for this one length. Based on the Olympic Games in Tokyo, a 2,000 meter race could extend over seven minutes, the time for the winners in the individual up to 5 minutes and 24 seconds for the victorious eighth of the men.

A 1,500 meter competition could result in regattas that are closer to four minutes, make the sport more of a sprint event, and penalize the more aerobic, endurance-oriented athletes. The new 1,500 meter distance would also be the shortest Olympic distance ever, with the second shortest at the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris being 1,750 meters.

Historically, race lengths have varied and domestic regattas continue to have a range of distances depending on the nature of the local river, such as the historic Henley Royal Regatta in Great Britain at 2,112 meters or the Oxford-Cambridge boat race. that’s a whopping 6,800 meters.

Funding according to “Olympic cycles”

Ironically, the sports association World Rowing (then FISA) was founded, which set itself at 2,000 meters. This has been the Olympic standard length since 1948, in countless national competitions that are based on this distance.

World Rowing President Jean-Christophe Rolland himself admitted that the situation is not ideal, saying that “we know that the specificity of the effort must be at least five minutes” and insisted that it was just an isolated incident for the 2028 Olympics would be. While international competitions had to make compromises in the past, including in 2006 when the route for the Asian Games in Doha was shortened to just 1,000 meters, elite rowing revolves entirely around the Olympic Games. Indeed, many national rowing federations have their funding structured around “Olympic cycles”.

The annual World Championships and the three international World Cups currently at 2,000 meters above sea level are the springboard for the Olympics. So changing the distance for 2028 would push all serious coaches and athletes to Paris 2024 to reorganize their training program to optimize performance over the 1,500 meter distance. The above competitions are also often pre-qualifications for the Olympics, so it seems strange that these second stage competitions will be held at a different distance.

Unequal influence of the Olympic Games

One finding might be that it suggests the unequal impact of the Olympics on rowing, to the point where the Olympic distance can be changed at will to suit public relations and sponsorship needs. World Rowing’s financial situation certainly allows for this, describing their accounts as “challenging” and “heavily dependent on Olympic revenues … to generate income from broadcasting”.

The Olympics themselves have lost a lot of money recently to the pandemic. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where COVID-19 resulted in no spectators, ticket sales losses alone cost $ 800 million. The sponsorship potential worth $ 200 million per brand was also limited in the purely digital format, with Fortune reporting a return on investment of at least 40 percent. With sponsors burned their fingers at the last Olympics, they’d want a clearer return before getting involved again.

Perhaps the more generous conclusion could be to commend World Rowing for its sober pragmatism and reform-minded intentions in a sector often viewed as being dominated by exclusive private schools (with only 12 out of 105 schools registered for British Rowing by state school institutions ). and elite universities with all the baggage of tradition.

Visibility is vital to popularizing the sport, especially if it can get business support to develop grassroots and rowing in the community and break out of a cycle of community clubs battling for serious funding. As three-time Olympic gold medalist Andy Hodge noted, “Without proper investment, community sport can be easily overlooked.”

It also plays a role at the elite level. A professional team totally dependent on public or lottery funds will have little incentive to market themselves to the masses and funding will instead be tied to receiving Olympic medals. In fact, most Olympic rowers are notoriously paid for even with public funds, and British Olympic gold medalist Will Satch fought for a mortgage because his income was deemed too unreliable.

Rowing history with “amateurism”

Rowing is currently not sufficiently accessible outside of school or university, and it’s not a great spectator sport either, which is why it is doing so poorly financially. Compare this to CrossFit, founded just 21 years ago, a multidisciplinary branded fitness program that includes indoor rowing with a clear focus on building an audience that had annual sales of $ 4 billion in 2015. CrossFit is not afraid to design its competition formats to do justice to the broadcasters and to invest significant production value in order to make their athletes into widely visible role models. It also benefits the best full-time, non-governmentalized athletes and their annual flagship CrossFit games, which share a $ 2.5 million prize pool, with champions receiving $ 310,000 each.

The struggle stems from the history of rowing with “amateurism”, the reluctance to open the sport to financial gain. British rowing federations often restricted athletes in competitions who had a job related to rowing or were paid to row, and it was not until 1988 that the IOC officially allowed paid professional athletes to compete.

Taking risks to build a movement

Rowing shouldn’t shy away from making the sport more commercially attractive in modern times. It doesn’t have to depend solely on schools and universities to get athletes into a government or lottery-funded training program with little prospect of financial reward thereafter.

By allowing a shorter rowing course, World Rowing could allow elite rowing to take place in more locations as it is difficult to build a two-kilometer rowing lake. World Rowing is also proposing other more radical changes, including the intention to introduce coastal rowing into the Olympic program, with mixed male and female teams, but at the significant cost of removing light rowing.

The Olympics have the power to inspire the next generation of people. Exercising can change life for the better when done correctly, so world rowing should be attributed a willingness to take risks to build one’s movement.

The rowers are now awaiting approval from Long Beach City Council as to whether they will officially host the 2028 LA Olympics. If approved, this could perhaps be the start of yet another reform to bring a venerable sport into the 21st century.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own views and do not necessarily reflect the editorial attitudes of Al Jazeera.


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