BATH, England (Reuters) - British swimmers and coaches are losing no sleep over the prospect of late night racing at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.
The schedules will see finals starting at 2200 local and finishing after midnight on some days, with U.S. broadcaster NBC eager to maximize advertising revenues by reaching prime time audiences in North America.
With media commitments, the post-race warm down, drug testing and then the transport home, the top swimmers in Rio will not be getting to bed until the early hours.
“When that was first announced we made a conscious decision not to make a song and dance about it,” Britain’s head coach Bull Furniss told reporters on Thursday after Team GB announced a squad of 26 swimmers for Rio.
“It is what it is. Other sports compete later in the day,” he added. “The last thing we wanted to do was to send a message to our athletes that this is a problem.”
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics the medal races were switched to the morning because of the time difference with the United States, drawing complaints from swimmers.
At last year’s world championships in Kazan, Russia, the finals were usually over by around 1930 local.
Furniss took the attitude that the late scheduling could work to his swimmers’ advantage if they adjusted body clocks better than others.
He said technical staff had done a lot of work in the last two and a half years to prepare the athletes to perform at their best late at night.
“We’ve had a whole strategy around that, we’ve had the best experts looking at it, we’ve had our sport science team on it,” said Furniss.
“We are practicing that with this Olympic team before we go out there...we will have a staged drop down to those times of competition to the later finals.”
Double world champion James Guy, who won 200 meters freestyle and 4x200 freestyle relay golds in Kazan, said he would take it in his stride.
“I‘m not bothered. Whoever can deal with it the best mentally will win the race,” he told reporters poolside at Bath University’s sporting complex. “It’s just one of those things. You’ve just got to build a bridge and get over it.”
Commonwealth Games 800m freestyle gold medalist Jazz Carlin, who missed London 2012 due to illness and would have been willing to swim at almost any time of the day to ensure her participation this time, was equally untroubled.
“The finals are starting at 10pm Rio time and I think that’s just a bonus,” she said. “I‘m more of a late-night person than an early morning person so I think that can only help.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Martyn Herman