Haze forces cancellation of Day One of Fina World Cup
Day One of Fina World Cup cancelled, S.League hit, Lions matches in doubt
On Twitter, Olympic 100m breaststroke champion Cameron van der Burgh gave the haze a big thumbs-down as soaring three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading forced organisers to cancel Day One of the Fina Swimming World Cup at the OCBC Aquatic Centre yesterday.
World 100m and 200m backstroke champion Emily Seebohm, an asthmatic, had her puffers ready and was looking forward to a 200m backstroke showdown with Katinka Hosszu, but had to make do with shopping instead.
Even the Iron Lady Hosszu, world-record holder for the 200m individual medley, herself had to put on a mask to avoid the bad air conditions.
At 4.52pm, the organisers informed the media of the decision to cancel yesterday's 15-final programme. At 6pm, when the finals were originally scheduled to start, the three-hour PSI reading hit a high of 242.
Later on, Fina executive director Cornel Marculescu said: "Considering the guidelines and regulations suggested by the National Environment Agency and the deteriorating haze situation today, we have decided to cancel the Finals scheduled for this evening.
"The schedule for tomorrow is still unchanged, but will depend on the weather conditions.
"We apologise to the local organising committee, to our partners, to our local and overseas broadcasters who have bought broadcast rights for events, to our title sponsor airweave, series sponsors Omega and Speedo, and to all partners engaged by the local organising committee.
"We also apologise to all the fans of swimming around the world. We look forward to providing an outstanding swim meet tomorrow."
Ang Peng Wee, chairman of the organising committee for this Singapore leg, added that "the health and safety of all athletes, guests, officials, spectators, volunteers and staff remain as our top priority".
The Singapore Swimming Association said it will "seek legal advice and may consider joining other parties and individuals in any class action suit which is brought against any Singapore-listed company which is linked to the burning of forests in Indonesia which is now causing one of the worst haze episodes to affect the region and, in particular, Singapore".
Fina advised that the payment of the prize money for yesterday's cancelled races will be based on the comparison of the best times made in events in Hong Kong and Beijing, among the athletes entered in the respective events in Singapore, and yesterday's morning heats which went on as scheduled.
Seebohm made the most of the break with some retail therapy and wrote on Instagram: "The current situation here in Singapore means no racing tonight due to the haze! #finaworldcup #singapore #offtotheshops"
The 23-year-old Australian, who was due to swim in the 50m and 200m backstroke events last night, told The New Paper: "I was looking forward to swimming the 200m because Katinka won in Hong Kong and I won in Beijing, so it was going to be a really good battle tonight.
"It's unfortunate how it turned out and there's nothing we can do about it. But I would rather be healthy than to win a race and be sick tomorrow, so I'm happy with the decision.
"I definitely noticed the haze, I can see it but, in terms of breathing, I haven't been too affected. I suffer from asthma, so I definitely got to have all my puffers."
Local swimmer Danny Yeo, slated for yesterday's 100m and 400m freestyle events, added: "I am pretty disappointed as I wanted to improve my times from the heats this morning in the Finals. But I understand that it is for the safety of the swimmers and completely understand that it had to be cancelled."
Swimming fans were also frustrated. Lionel Goh, a 45-year-old who works in the advertising industry, took his wife, daughter and son to the OCBC Aquatic Centre, only to be turned away.
He told TNP: "My 11-year-old daughter swims with Aquatic Performance Swim Club and we wanted her to be inspired by the world-class swimmers, by letting her see how the pros prepare and perform on the big stage.
"We will still try to find time to go for the second day and we hope the haze conditions will get better."
The ongoing haze situation has already plagued the S.League with a handful of postponements and it could also affect the Lions' World Cup qualifiers as they play Afghanistan on Thursday and Cambodia the following Tuesday at the National Stadium.
The Football Association of Singapore said: "The safety and well-being of the fans, players, officials and volunteers are of utmost importance to the FAS and it is closely monitoring the haze situation together with the AFC.
"Should the haze worsen considerably, a decision will be taken by AFC match officials on the most appropriate course of action in the best interests of all parties."
- Spectators who purchased tickets for yesterday evening's session will be eligible for a refund. More information is available at http://www.sportshub.com.sg/sportshubtix/Pages/Home.aspx