World governing body FINA will vote to decide the two host nations at a meeting in Dubai on November 8 following an abbreviated campaign to find a new host for 2021.
China, Japan, Turkey and Qatar are in the running while the United Arab Emirates hope to join the race if government backing, one of the conditions for all potential hosts, can be secured before the Oct. 20 deadline.
Budapest had originally been awarded the 2021 world championships but a slot suddenly opened up when the Mexican city of Guadalajara withdrew as the 2017 host, citing financial problems caused by falling oil prices.
Hungary agreed to step in at short notice and host the biennial event in 2017 but a new site for 2021 was needed, with Gwangju, South Korea already confirmed for 2019.
FINA announced in June that it had received expressions of interest from as many as seven countries, including Australia and Germany, who have since ruled out bidding and the list continues to dwindle with Argentina also opting out.
“Argentina is not bidding now,” Marculescu told Reuters.
“There is still a lot of interest. We have some excellent candidates and swimming is in a very strong position.
“We just had a very successful championships in Kazan, I think the best ever, and at the London Olympics, we were the number one sport worldwide for television and internet and also loved by youth more than any other sport.”
Ayman Saad, a spokesman for UAE Swimming, told Reuters the UAE federation would present its proposals to the Dubai and Abu Dhabi sport councils before deciding whether to enter the running.
“If a big competition takes place here we have a good chance to improve all areas of (UAE) aquatics, not just swimming,” said Saad.
The enormous costs of staging international sports events has become a hot topic in recent year, particularly after oil and gas-rich Qatar was awarded the 2022 soccer World Cup.
There has been a reduction in countries from Europe and North America bidding to stage major events, resulting in a shift to Asia.
Last month, the International Olympic Committee awarded the 2022 Winter Olympics to Beijing, ensuring Asia would hold three Olympics in a row, after Pyeongchang, South Korea, was given the 2018 Winter Games and Tokyo the 2020 Summer Games.
The tiny but ambitious Gulf states have become a regular site for major events, including swimming with Dubai (2010) Doha (2014) and Abu Dhabi (2020) all awarded short-course (25-metre pool) world championships.
Neither has hosted the long-course (50-metre pool) world championships although Dubai was awarded the 2013 event, only to pull out, forcing FINA to move the titles to Barcelona.
Of the four confirmed candidates, all have previous experience in hosting swimming championships.
China (2011) and Japan (2002) have already hosted the long-course championships and have offered up several potential host cities.
Doha (2014) and Istanbul (2012) have both staged the short-course world title. Although they are bidding for both, Turkish swimming officials want to stage the championships in 2023 as part of the country’s 100th anniversary of its foundation as a republic from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.
(Reporting by Julian Linden. editing by Alan Baldwin)