2005 World Aquatics Championships bids

2005 World Aquatics Championships bids

Montreal became the first city in North America to hold the FINA World Aquatics Championships. (2005 World Aquatics Championships)

First Awarding

First Awarding Winner: Montreal

The venue for the games was itself controversial. The games were awarded initially to Montreal, and then taken away again in February 2005 (leading to the suicide of organizing-committee head Yvon Desrochers) when the city was unable to raise sufficient funding, with other cities indicating their willingness to take the games on. However, following promises of funding from various levels of government, Montreal re-bid for the games and they were re-awarded to the city.

The championships were the first major international sporting competition hosted solely by Montreal since the 1976 Summer Olympics, a gap of nearly 30 years. The bid for the event was started by former Montreal mayor Pierre Bourque, who was a critic of the way the administration of Gerald Tremblay handled the event, and warned about massive losses which would be carried by Montreal taxpayers.

The games were awarded to Montreal in part as an experiment to see if it is possible to hold the championships in North America. The lack of exposure for these sports in North America resulted in very low sponsorship rates. The organizing committee could not meet basic levels of commercial sponsorship in the year before 2005, resulting in lack of government funding that depended on commercial sponsorship levels. In the end, although basic planning had been completed, and some construction was underway, FINA determined that the organizing committee was unable to meet the commitment to host the games.

Revocation of Award

FINA revoked the award, and set about on a second round of bidding. Many candidate cities lined up to have a chance at hosting the championships, while Montreal campaigned vigorously to keep the games. All seemed lost when statements by FINA officials seemed to indicate that Montreal would be excluded. Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay made a bold move and guaranteed that any loss coming from the event would be covered by the city of Montreal.

econd Awarding

econ Awarding Winner: Montreal

When the second vote and awarding took place, Montreal's planning, and the commitment of the city were enough to win the second bid. The organizing committee was revamped with Norman Legault as director, and construction ramped up rapidly to finish the venues.

Event Logistics

Sponsorship by the STM, Montreal's public transit commission, allowed competitors to take public transit for free. This allowed competitors to enjoy the lively city of festivals. The recommended way to reach the event site was by Montreal Metro. Coincident with the championships were the Montreal Fireworks Festival (visible from the event site), Just for Laughs comedy festival, and Fantasia Festival of genre film.

The event featured new outdoor diving and long-course (50m) swimming pools, to the delight of many, instead of indoor pools, on Saint Helen's Island. The open water swimming events took place in the Olympic rowing basin, legacy of Montreal's 1976 Summer Olympics, on the neighbouring Île Notre-Dame. Both islands are part of Parc Jean Drapeau.

The opening ceremony was created by the Cirque du Soleil, whose home base is Montreal, and was a water show.

In the end, a total of 160,000 spectators attended, short of the 200,000 projected to break even on the event. This resulted in a $4,000,000 loss, about $1.10 per resident of Montreal.


The well-planned-and-executed event has made the Montreal civic administration plan for future world-class games. Anticipation, from comments by the mayor, are that Montreal will bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics, to take place 40 years after the last one. The next major games event in Montreal will be the 2006 World Outgames, the first World Outgames, which also has controversy around it, with the revocation of the awarding of the 2006 World Gay Games from Montreal.

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