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Olympics-Beijing schedule switch angers swimming fraternity

Written by: Staff

SYDNEY, Oct 27 (Reuters) The International Olympic Committee's (IOC) decision to stage morning finals in the swimming events at the 2008 Beijing Games has drawn a mixed but mostly hostile response from around the world.

The swimming federations of China, Britain and Australia have heavily criticised the move but the United States said it supported the change because the finals would be broadcast in their prime-time period.

''This is a great opportunity for our sport to be showcased to the nearly one billion people in the potential television audience of the Americas during the first nine days of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing,'' USA Swimming's executive director Chuck Wielgus said in a statement.

''The live prime-time exposure is something that can only benefit the sport of swimming, and enhance the public profile of our sport's top athletes.'' China's head swimming coach Zhang Yadong said the host nation would be unfairly disadvantaged by the decision which went against the spirit of fair play.

''It will be an unfair competition,'' Zhang said in a statement. ''I don't see how the Olympic spirit can be seen in this decision, I doubt it is.

''Next year we'll have to reschedule all the domestic tournaments to match the time of the Olympic finals.

''We'll have to gradually move the wake-up time of our swimmers back to 6:30 am and start training at 8:30. As the decision won't be changed, this is the only thing we can do.

BIG ADVANTAGE ''The European and American swimmers, in particular the Americans, will have a big advantage.'' British Swimming officials also slammed the move, with chief executive David Sparkes and national performance director Bill Sweetenham voicing their opposition.

''We're really disappointed by the IOC's decision,'' Sparkes said. ''It's clearly one the IOC may come to regret in time.'' ''Commonsense sometimes doesn't prevail but whatever the conditions we have a group of athletes and coaches that can meet them head on,'' added Sweetenham.

Australia's head coach Alan Thompson said he was angry that the athletes' interest had not been considered but had told his s swimmers there was nothing they could do about it expect prepare the best they could.

''The only thing that gets me cranky is that (the IOC) have made the decision for commercial reasons, not for the good of the sport,'' he told reporters.

Thompson said the Australians had been expecting the announcement and had already been talking with sports scientists about the best ways to maximise performance in the morning.

''It's about motivation too and your ability to adapt to change, and the best performers are going to always be able to do that,'' he said.

''And certainly the motivation for an athlete swimming in the final at an Olympic games will certainly get the arousal levels up, whether it's morning or afternoon.'' REUTERS PM DS1232

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