LONDON – England's unseasonable warm spell has created an Olympic problem in the most unimaginable place: the swimming pool.
Games organizers are scrambling to ramp up London's rarest July commodity, air conditioning, in hopes of cooling an Aquatics Centre that has drawn complaints from swim coaches in recent days. The recent string of sunbathed 80-degree days are being described as a heat wave by London locals, and it has harangued a pool deck with equipment failures in recent days. With temperatures approaching a humid 85-degrees, officials are working to cool the environment for what has become one of the most blistering event tickets in these Games.
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FINA, which governs the pool at Olympic events, are overhauling the air conditioning system in hopes that the climate surrounding the pool will get down to the upper 70s by Saturday. That's when USA's Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte will kick off the swim events in the 400 individual medley in what is expected to be another historic run in American swimming. Until then, U.S. coaches have said they are confident organizers will get the temperature straightened out – barring the typical July rainstorm, which would solve the problem naturally. The larger concern may be for the crowd, which is expected to hit the maximum capacity of 17,500 on almost all event days.
"They assured us that they were going to get that taken care of," said U.S. men's swimming coach Gregg Troy of the pool deck temperatures. "I guess it's a little bit warmer than what it usually is at this time of year. It has been a little warm on the deck, but it's not unreasonable.
"I think it's going to be a whole lot warmer in the stands. It was a little bit better today than what it has been. You kind of like that. You're used to the heat. It's an advantage from our standpoint."
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Phelps' coach, Bob Bowman, said "it won't be a performance issue" for any of the U.S. swimmers.
"It's warm, but I love the heat," added U.S. swimmer Natalie Coughlin. "I'm embracing it. I'm always in a parka. I'm always freezing at meets. I look like a little kid most of the time because I have a big parka on before my races, so I would love the heat. But I think there's going to be a storm coming so it's going to get quite cold in the next few days."
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