In the fall of 2017, Caeleb Dressel, the fastest swimmer at the world, sat in a hotel coffee shop on an island in the Danube in Budapest, sipping water from a bottle and trying not to think about a future without the Olympics.
The Plot to Kill the Olympics
It was not simple to accomplish. The 24-year-old from Florida was one of 300 Olympians competing in Budapest, Hungary’s castle and grand hotel district for the second season of a new competition, the International Swimming League (ISL), whose regard for the Games and their dominance over watersports was summed up by its slogan:
“This. Is. The. Revolution.”
Dressel did a lot to fuel the uprising.
At the World Championships a year prior, he won six golds and two silvers, suggesting he could challenge Michael Phelps’s record of eight golds at a single Olympics.
During his six weeks of racing in Budapest after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were postponed due to the pandemic, Dressel set four world records in seven days.
In an instant, the league, not the Games, was the site where sports history was being produced, thanks to that and five more world records set by other swimmers in Hungary.
As a result, Dressel and his tattooed left sleeve became symbols of an Olympic sport that is quickly becoming more than just an Olympic event.
Dressel was on the Fence about his Opinion on that Matter.
He centred his entire life around the Olympics. All his life, he had associated Olympic swimming with other Olympic sports like track and gymnastics, but in the league, he found “what swimming should be.”
The Predicament Dressel faced Sprang from a Classic Conundrum.
The public perceives the Olympics as the most prestigious competition in the world because of the mythology surrounding them and the Olympic ideal.
Athletes dislike the old men in charge behind the scenes because of their long record of corruption and because they have profited from the financial, sexual, and pharmaceutical exploitation of Olympic athletes.
The Coronavirus was at the Centre of the Latest Scandal to rock the Establishment.
In March of last year, epidemiologists declared that they could not think of a greater superspreader event than the simultaneous assembly of several million people from every country on Earth and then spreading them back over the planet two weeks later.
The IOC’s statement, that it “couldn’t conceive the Games any other way,” showed that it prioritised time and money over the welfare of the world’s population. It refused to budge for weeks, but eventually gave up after Canada withdrew and Australia and Britain threatened to do the same.
This Time, though, the IOC’s Haughtiness had Backfired on it.
Many of the larger Olympic sports went through a stealthy remake in 2020, much to how the pandemic prompted political and social transformation all throughout the world.
Most main competitions in track and field, basketball, soccer, cycling, tennis, and marathon running went ahead by arranging COVID-safe bubbles or going virtual, sparking a slew of editorials questioning the Games’ necessity. “Cancel. The. Olympics,” a New York Times reader pleaded.
The ISL Spearheaded the Movement.
Rarely does someone initiate a new Champions League. Ukranian multimillionaire Konstantin Grigorishin accomplished this in just nine months in 2019. Grigorishin, 55, has a slim body and shaven head that suggest a muscular efficiency; in a previous life, he spent his time as a Soviet cosmologist dreaming up new galaxies.
In Grigorishin’s ideal scenario, top swimmers would compete for city-based teams in a professional league.
In addition to bringing out the paradox that the most popular participant sports in the world, running and swimming, are also among the most obscure spectator ones, he contended that the four-year wait for a major event did not honour the sport but rather stifled it. His swimming competition would take the form of a yearly season with weekly meets.
Any Doping Infraction would Result in an Indefinite ban to keep it Clean.
Grigorishin promised a 50% revenue split to the players, making the league a lot more appealing than the Olympics. With his unique formula of nonstop competition and arena-rock production, he assured swimmers that they would soon be household names.
In 2019, the inaugural season of the ISL drew stadium crowds and an internet audience of millions, proving that he was onto something.
The season featured seven matches between eight teams from the United States and Europe.
Its second season, with ten teams and 300 swimmers, 1,000 support workers, and three neighbouring hotels and a natatorium on the river in Budapest, was the biggest sporting event of 2020, surpassing even the Olympics.