Dubai: The last edition of Fina World Swimming Championships (25 metres) in Manchester, United Kingdom witnessed 18 new world records being set. The tenth edition that gets under way at the impressive Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Sports Complex on Wednesday, has set a few records even before the start of the competition.
A record 777 swimmers from 148 countries are taking part at the Dubai Championships, compares to the 600-odd swimmers from 116 nations that showed up in Manchester more than two years back.
This is also the first time such a major international swimming competition is being held in the Middle East.
"The record numbers simply mean that people trust Dubai to do things well," Vice Championships Director Dr Khalid Al Zahed told Gulf News as the last touches were being given to the final rehearsal to welcome the athletes and officials.
"Almost all the swimmers and officials have arrived and everything is in place to ensure we have the best Fina World Swimming Championships in the history of the sport," Dr Al Zahed promised.
The official said Fina President Dr Julio Maglioni was effusive in his praise of the new sports complex that has come up along the Dubai Bypass Road in Dubailand. "Dr Maglioni has praised the Local Organising Committee on the work we have done so far in putting such an event together. This is not only an honour for us, but also a huge motivation and encouragement for us to ensure we live up to the high ideals set before us," Dr Al Zahed added.
The official opening ceremony will be a brief 45-minute affair starting at 6.45pm today after which the actual competition will get under way with the 200metres freestyle heats for men.
The daily competition schedule will be in two sessions with the morning races held from 10am and the late evening session from 7pm. Tickets have been reasonably priced and organisers are hoping that UAE residents will grab this opportunity to see some of the best swimmers in action over the next five days.
"I admit swimming is not a very popular sport in this part of the world, but we want UAE residents to make use of this unique opportunity of having some of the world's best swimmers right here," Dr Al Zahed said.
In April 2008, the Fina Trophy for the best team went to the United States with an accumulated tally of 797 points coupled with the top position in the medals table with ten gold, six silver and one bronze.
Australia came in second with eight gold, nine silver and two bronze medals showing how close the competition has been.
Come Sunday, and the swimming world will once again see who is at the top of the ranks — the US, Australia or some other nation.