Michael Phelps Wags A Finger At FINA & IOC: More Is Less When It Comes To Olympic Adds

Michael Phelps: I'll say this one more time - images by Patrick B. Kraemer

More is less. That’s the verdict of Michael Phelps as he joined the chorus of concern over FINA’s fat-cat additions to the Olympic program, which for Tokyo 2020, the International Olympic Committee decided this week, will grow by a mixed medley relay, a men’s 800m free and a women’s 1500m freestyle. The most decorated Olympic of all-time, with 23 golds and 28 medals in all to his credit, Phelps gave a big thumbs down to the additions, which fell shy of FINA’s request of also adding stroke 50m races on all strokes. FINA’s fat-cattery was in the same mould as the shiny suits saga of 2008 and 2009, he said. The sport was worse off for it and had had to roll back.

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I would agree with MP, leave the program and tradition of the modern Olympics as is.

If events are to be added then adding stroke 50’s should be the first priority. Adding 800’s and 1500’s to the M/F programs just adds more opportunities for the distance freestylers.

By adding stroke 50’s you have 2 events for all the sprinters of all 4 strokes ie 50 & 100. For the stroke middle distance specialists the 200’s. The distance freestylers still are catered for in 400/800/1500 or open water. With freestyle the 200 is a intriguing battle between the sprinters swimming up and the distance swimmers swimming down.

Also, in today’s world the general public may only watch swimming at the Olympics once every 4 years. Generally in sports, with so much competing content event durations are reducing, think cricket going from 5 days tests to 50 overs to 20 overs (which is now the biggest most profitable format). So if you think commercial and want to convert the general public into swimming fans adding 2 more distance events is going backwards.


I would have left it at 32 events with the women’s 800FS replaced by a 1500FS so that the women’s program mirrors that of the men. By adding more and more events FINA is diluting its product. It also strengthens the arguments of the critics who downgrade multiple-medal winning efforts in swimming as the inevitable by-product of a bloated schedule.


I’m not against changing the program if warranted but any said changes need to be clearly defensible especially with the reality of Olympic gigantism and the push to ‘cap’ competitor numbers (not that the IOC sometimes shoot themselves in the foot in that regard.

Adding the W1500/M800 DOES address the ‘equality’ issue and its not likely to see increased competitors. However, Longstroke’s view of simply making both M/F programs mirror each other does have its merits.

Whilst I can empathise with the form-stroke 50 specialists, I fear they were always going to be fighting an uphill battle due to the reality that their inclusion WOULD entail an increase in competitor numbers.

Where I feel they could and indeed should simplify the program is via the abolition of semi-finals and return to making it straight “fastest 8 in heats to finals” with the unspoken message that if you don’t bring your A game in the morning then you miss out.

Removing all semi finals WOULD free up the space for the addition of other events but those events, in this day and age, need to pass the issue of competitor numbers PLUS that of merit.

That last issue, merit, is my argument against the mixed relay. Such relays would not realistically entail additional nos but its the manner in which they have been “shoehorned” into the program.

Mixed relays CAN work (biathlon in Winter sports a key example) but even then they should serve an “apprenticeship” at both World Championships AND major intl comps (Euros/Asians/Pan Ams/ Pan Pacs even CG if they survive) for a couple of Olympic cycles to gauge their acceptance/popularity/”take-up” by countries before putting them on the Olympic program

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