December 12 - American swimming icon Mark Spitz hit back today at suggestions by French President Nicolas Sarkozy that the Olympic Games should be allowed to take place two months earlier than usual – June instead of August – if they were ever held in Qatar.
Sarkozy made his comments as part of an address at the forum during which he also claimed the 2022 FIFA World Cup being staged here should be moved to winter.
But Spitz (pictured top), who won seven gold medals at the Munich 1972 Olympics – setting world records in all of them – plus two more golds in Mexico City 1968, says Sarkozy was out of order.
"He was out of his element in trying to suggest that the Olympics be hosted at a different time," Spitz said.
"It was his feeble way of basically appealing to the people here that the World Cup should also be at a different time."
Spitz was speaking after also addressing delegates here, where he was joined on the podium by Australian swimming legend Ian Thorpe.
He could not hide his disdain for what Sarkozy said, clearly unhappy at outside politicians getting involved in such major sporting decisions.
If Qatar were to succeed with a bid for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games after twice missing out before, said Spitz, Sarkozy's fears about the heat would be unfounded anyway.
"The stadium is probably going to be an indoor stadium and probably air-conditioned," said Spitz.
"Only the spectators getting into the stadium would have to brave the heat.
"Think of the number of people who watch the actual event versus the world market watching on television and all the money made for the rights over 10 years out.
"They need to sell sponsorship time and that is based on the viewing audience, not those sitting in the stadium getting free Cokes.
"There are other professional sports too that have television rights that are etched in stone.
"Those schedules can't change."
Spitz also hit out at criticism directed at British swimmers at London 2012 who gained only three medals and generally under-performed.
"I disagree with the Commission that was established to determine what was wrong with [British] swimming," he said.
"It was foolish."
Referring to Rebecca Adlington, who failed to retain her gold medal from Beijing 2008 but still managed two bronzes, Spitz added: "Are they basing the whole programme on one particular swimmer just because that person had got older or was slightly less focussed?
"Things work in ebbs and flows.
"Even Michael Phelps lost.
"He didn't even get a medal in one of the races he was world record holder in.
"If you look at how many British swimmers actually made the finals, it was far more than four years before.
"Maybe the guys who make these decisions should actually get in the water and see how tough it is."
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