Swimming-Cash-strapped Greece to miss European championships

ATHENS, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Greece will not compete in the European short-course swimming championships starting this week for the first time in 16 years due to financial problems, Hellenic Swimming Federation (KOE) president Dimitris Diathesopoulos said on Wednesday.

Diathesopoulos told Reuters Greece would miss the championships starting in Chartres, France, on Thursday and would concentrate instead on the world championships in Istanbul next month.

"We had decided in the summer that we would not attend the European event this year, mainly due to financial reasons," the Diathesopoulos said.

""We programmed this according to our budget constraints and the fact that the world championships are so close.

"Of course we are disappointed that we will miss out for the first time since 1996 after so many successive appearances, but these days a lot of things are happening for the first time in Greece's history."

The announcement comes two weeks after the Greek government's decision to slash funding for sports federations which has forced the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) to announce that a host of federations will stop operating from Jan. 1 next year unless the state revises its plans for funding in the 2013 budget.

Greek sport continues to be hit hard by the effects of the financial crisis with all federations forced to sharply reduce expenses and swimming, in particular, finding life tough.

Mary Thivaiou, a technical director of the synchronised swimming team, from which the duet of Evangelia Platanioti and Despoina Solomou finished eighth in the Olympic final at London 2012, spoke on Wednesday outlined the difficult training conditions.

"Our main goal for the new season is simply to participate in the major events of the sport and this, of course, depends on the preparation of athletes but also the economic factors," she told the KOE website (www.koe.org.gr).

"The situation last year was incredibly difficult and this year promises to be even more challenging. We were training last year in facilities where the water was cold and not so clean."

"Synchronised swimming requires many hours of training and plenty of room and obviously music. It is very tough to do all of this and stay focused when we are training with other groups simultaneously as concentration in our sport is essential." (Editing by John Mehaffey)

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