Quite a provocative read, but unfortunately quite right, here in the Chicago Tribune:
The difference in global renown between Phelps, the greatest swimmer in history, and Bolt, the fastest sprinter in history, is as simple as the difference in the inclusiveness of their sports.
Swimming remains a white bread sport. Not a single black athlete won a medal in the 40 events at the 2011 world championships. Only 20 countries accounted for the 120 medals, just one nation from Africa (South Africa, three bronze) and one from South America (Brazil three).
The spread is even more limited in events that are on the Olympic program, since two of Brazil’s medals and two of South Africa’s came in 50-meter events contested only at worlds.
Now for track and field. Forty-one countries won medals in the 47 events at the recent worlds. (All are on the Olympic program).
An African nation, Kenya, was third in golds and total medals. Seven African countries, as well six Caribbean island nations, and two South American nations won medals. A majority of the gold medalists were black athletes from six different countries.
Swimming had finalists (top-8) from 36 countries. Track had top-8 finishers from 66 countries.
The international swimming federation’s attempts at diversity have added up to giving spots — nearly all in the 50 and 100-meter events — to athletes who are hopelessly overmatched.
For example: Sixty-seven of the 107 entries in the men’s 100 free finished two to 28 seconds behind the leading qualifier.
All those stats are just a way to make a simple point: most of the world doesn’t give a flying fish about swimming.