Melbourne to host World Titles
Melbourne will host the 2007 World Swimming Championships. Swimming's governing body, FINA, announced in Barcelona last night Australia's sporting capital had beaten a combined bid from Abu Dhabi and Dubai (United Arab Emirates), and Brazil's Rio de Janeiro.
In the first round of voting Melbourne scored eight votes and the UAE seven. Rio de Janeiro (6) was eliminated.
In the final ballot, Melbourne defeated UAE 15-6.
The world championships will see the five aquatic disciplines -- swimming, open water swimming, diving, water polo and synchronised swimming -- come together in a spectacular festival.
Premier Steve Bracks last night said the titles cemented Melbourne's reputation as a world leader in sport and major events.
"Victoria's calendar of major events is in a league of its own and the swimming championships provide another opportunity for international media exposure," Mr Bracks said.
He said the indoor events would be held at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre and open water swimming at St Kilda Beach.
"We aim to create a festival atmosphere and I'm sure Victorians will show how enthusiastically they support their sport," he said.
Members of Australia's swim team, preparing for this week's World Championships in Barcelona, were ecstatic.
Melbourne's world backstroke champion, Matt Welsh, said he may delay his retirement to compete.
"I thought Melbourne in 2006 (the Commonwealth Games) would have been a good sign-off for me, but Melbourne 2007 has got a good ring to it," he said from the team's training camp in Germany.
"It's great news for Melbourne and everyone who comes to this magnificent sporting city are in for the time of their lives.
"It will be fabulous for Melbourne and equally good for Australian swimming.
"The sport is really on the move in Melbourne and to spend the next five to six years promoting the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships will do wonders for swimming."
Olympic and world champion Ian Thorpe said he loved competing in front of a home crowd.
"I know what a great time I had at my first world championships in Perth in 1998," he said.
"I'm sure there will be a lot of swimmers, who may have retired after 2006, who just might hang around for 2007.
"That will be a positive thing, as it was for the 2000 Olympics."
The championships are expected to attract an estimated 12,000 interstate and international tourists, generating up to $100 million in economic benefits and providing about 2000 jobs.
Sports Minister Justin Madden, Major Events chairman Steve Vizard and multiple gold medal-winning swimmer Susie O'Neill were in Barcelona lobbying for Melbourne.
Mr Madden said the bid team deserved a pat on the back.
"This is a fantastic result for Victoria and the vote shows delegates recognise Victoria is a great place to visit and that we love our sport," he said.
"And it's not as though we beat no-name cities."
Mr Vizard said Melbourne's home-made strategy won the day.
"We served them (delegates) up chocolate crackles and I think that did the trick," he said.