Marcel Friederich | AIPS - Alexander Popov’s opinion has changed. In July last year the Olympic gold medallist turned IOC member was highly critical of Rio de Janeiro's preparations for the 2016 Olympic Games; now he is relieved to tell a different tale.
Popov, a member of the International Olympic Committee's co-ordination commission, had seen 'red lights.'
However, on the sidelines of the FINA World Aquatics Convention, he said: “There are big improvements between our last visit and the visit before ¬– improvements in terms of infrastructure and organisation. They are doing a fantastic job in Rio now.”
Even though the four-times Olympic champion is now 43 he still appears in good shape, almost as if he could still compete with today’s stars at the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) in Qatar.
Surprisingly, however, he said: “I do not practise constantly in the water any more. The last time I was in the pool was in July. After 300 or 400 metres, I was almost dead.”
Popov remains of the most important and influential of sports figures and not only in aquatic sports. Long before he announced his competitive retirement in January 2005, he had decided to engage in sports diplomacy.
He had already become a member of the IOC athletes' commission in 1996 and followed up by becoming a full member of the IOC which also brought him an appearance in the Closing Ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing in 2008.
One of his most recent tasks was in preparing for the summer Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing 2014 as chairman of the organisation commission.
He brings to his new roles all the passion which once drove him through the water.
He said: “I love my job but it is not so easy as it seems. Travelling a lot means being away from home almost all the time.” He and wife Darya, also a former Olympic swimmer, and children Vladimir, 17, Anton, 14, and Mia, 3, live in Moscow.
Also read: 'Thomas Bach continues evolution Olympic movement'
Event website: www.rio2016.com