Melbourne to Manchester| 03 May 2007
MELBOURNE TO MANCHESTER - Sean Woods
Melbourne completed a unique treble in March when it became the first city in the world to host the Olympics(1956), The Commonwealth Games(2006) and the World Swimming Championships.
Well as Meatloaf once sang - rather cheesily it must be said - "Two Out of Three Aint Bad", as Manchester prepares to host next year's World Swimming Championships(short course) five years after the runaway success of the Commonwealth Games.
Swimming is more than just a national sport to the Aussies - its a national obsession. When their five-times Olympic champion Ian "Thorpedo" Thorpe retired last year it was headline news for days before and after his announcement.
In stark contrast most Brits consider "swimming" as larking about in the public baths and trying to avoid a verruca at the same time. And how many of us can name one of the current crop of British swimmers ? Thought not...
This is Liam Tancock who won a Bronze in the 50m backstroke.
So it was somewhat surprising to find the Rod Laver Arena - where this year's swimming finals were held - half empty on most nights. "Its a bit pricey" whispered one local volunteer to me. And she was right. Around £90 for one of the best seats in the house - £35 for the cheapest. Another excuse was offered by an Aussie fan. "We're all sported out mate". He pointed out that Melbourne had held 28 major sporting events in the past year and spectator fatigue may have set in.
It would be churlish to suggest the Melbourne finals weren't a success. The razzmataz, the colour, the warmth and hospitality of the hosts and the small matter of watching Michael Phelps break seven world records were to borrow an Aussie phrase "awesome mate".
But Manchester '08 reckon they can put on an even bigger show. Spokesman James Hickman - five times world short course champion in the 200 metres butterfly - said: "They've done well on their presentation in Melbourne but we can do it even better. We're going to put on a show for everybody that wants to come".
Bold words, but organisers can guarantee one thing when tickets go on general sale. The most expensive seat at the MEN arena will set you back £35 - the same as the cheapest seat in Melbourne.