60 DAYS TO GO. PRESIDENT BARELLI: IT WILL BE A CELEBRATION FOR ROME AND ITALY, AND A RECOGNITION FOR THE EFFORTS MADE BY THE CLUBS
Sixty days to go to the European Championships.Rome will be once again the capital of swimming and sports thanks to an event that will embrace the city and also the coastline, with open water swimming to be held on the beach at Ostia. There will be medals awarded (lots of them), public attending the events and - another less 'competitive' but equally prestigious goal - also a different water culture for a country surrounded by the sea like Italy. Apart from a couple of Italian athletes (Martina Carraro, Marco Orsi), all the others will make their debut in Rome since they were too young for the 2009 World Championships.
Paolo Barellipresident of the Italian Swimming Federation, is counting down the days: the machine is already on and the Italian team will finally be able to experience the thrill of a major international event at home.
What kind of European Championships will it be?
"I expect the grandstands to be full, with Europe finding itself in the most beautiful facility in the world after the Covid-19 drama, the closure of the swimming pools, and the economic difficulties resulting from the war in Ukraine. It will be a celebration for the city of Rome and for the whole of Italy.”
From the 2009 World Championships to the 2022 European Championships.
"I hope that the events we will see in two months can strengthen the positive image of our athletes, the growth of our movement, which nowadays, compared to 13 years ago, has many more arrows to its bow. Italian swimming is winning and represents a model.”
Swimming, diving and artistic swimming in Rome. Open water swimming in Ostia.
"It will be nice to involve the beaches of Rome’s coastline in the middle of summer. While the rest of the disciplines will be concentrated in the Swimming Stadium area. With artistic swimming competing at the Pietrangeli stadium and high diving in the area of tennis courts 1 and 2 of the Foro Italico complex. The original idea was to place the 27-metre tower in the Castel Sant'Angelo area but permits and timing will not allow it. Everything will be equally scenic with the dome of St. Peter's, the Tiber and the city as if they were on a wonderful postcard, and everything will be more accessible to the public, with the facilities just a few steps away in the Foro Italico sporting facility.”
Swimming is healthy.
"There is a greater awareness of our value. Compared to 2009, in a World Championships remembered above all for Federica Pellegrini's gold medals and world records, and Alessia Filippi's gold and bronze, we have grown in quantity and quality.”
There is definitely a "but...”
"...but the difficulties our clubs have to face are great. First the closure of facilities, then the energy crisis with the bills that more than doubling. Here, Roma 2022 will be the right recognition for all the efforts that have been made in recent months. Competitive activity has a significant cost in a club's budget and is the first to be sacrificed in times of crisis. Being able to count on an Italian of great value, young and heterogeneous, shows all the work of all Italian clubs. Without forgetting that the road is still long.”
A first 30 million announcement, a second 48 million coming soon to support the clubs. Yet, from the outside, there is a perception that politics is struggling to understand the importance of sports, especially grassroots sports.
"The reality is that the ‘blanket is short’: there are socio-economic areas that carry more weight in the life of the country, this is a fact. Just as it is a fact that sporting activity is still not adequately considered. But step by step we are trying to change things. The incoming bids are a sign, they will not be enough to cover the losses of all these years, but it is a first step."
Medals and more are coming to Rome.
"We have made symbolic choices, such as the two living mascots (the rescue dogs Lea and Gastone, ed.) because we also want the world of rescue swimming to be represented at Roma 2022. We are a country that has wonderful coastlines and everyone must be able to experience them safely. The Italian Federation is not only concerned about champions but also works to ensure the safety of citizens in the water, training lifeguards and disseminating rules and tools for responsible swimming.”
Relations with the FINA, the world’s international federation, and the LEN, the European Swimming League, are key to contribute to the success of the event.
"I have contributed to LEN (Barelli was president from 2012 until a few months ago, bringing it to levels of excellence. Everything has a beginning and an end. Having said that, we will make a great European championships for Italy, for Rome and for the image of our country, which has gone through and is going through difficult times.”
(Paolo de Laurentiis / Corriere dello Sport)
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