The 10km race is one of six new disciplines that the International Olympic Committee agreed yesterday to introduce at the Beijing Games but it is the only one that will require a new venue for 2012. Likely locations for the race, a freestyle event in which each lap must be at least two kilometres, include the rowing lake at Eton Dorney, already a Games venue, and the Royal Docks in London's Docklands, which hosts the swimming section of the London Triathlon.
Britain has a real medal hope in open-water swimming in Alan Bircher, 24, who made the transition from the pool three years ago and has won the European Cup in the last two years and won silver at last year's world championships.
David Sparkes, the chief executive of British Swimming, said: "We welcome the inclusion of this event. We have a talent in Alan Bircher who has medalled in international events. He has tremendous potential."
The decisions on new sports disciplines were agreed yesterday by the executive board of the IOC, meeting for the first time since London was awarded the 2012 Games.
Gender equality has crept up their agenda and yesterday the IOC announced that to address a male bias - there were 59 per cent male competitors in Athens - the number of women athletes in Beijing will rise by 80 out of an unchanged total of 10,500. Sports that will have to make room for more women will be named by the IOC later this year.
A bid by women's boxing - the only Olympic event without female participation - to be included in the Beijing Games was rejected, although the IOC's sports director, Kelly Fairweather, raised the prospect of its inclusion in London provided technical shortcomings are addressed.
"We look forward to seeing progress in women's boxing in the next few years," he said. "Events will be reviewed again in three years before the London Games in 2009 when they can come back with another request."Reuse content