Vitaly Mutko has led Russian opposition to the name change ©Getty Images

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko has warned the country may ignore synchronised swimming's name change to artistic swimming as a petition against the switch gained more than 7,000 signatures.

The alteration was approved at the International Swimming Federation (FINA) Congress on Saturday (July 22).

It was justified on the grounds that it would make the discipline more accessible and bring it into line with events in other sports such as gymnastics. 

This followed an apparent request for such a decision from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

But, despite near unanimous support from delegates in Budapest, there has been growing opposition since from athletes, coaches and spectators. 

"The IOC has requested FINA rebrand the sport of synchronised swimming, in an attempt to revitalise the popularity of the sport," reads the petition, submitted via website and addressed to FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu and the IOC.

"In the past 30 years, the sport has increased in popularity, with new events being incorporated, males participating at the international level, new countries participating competitively in international competitions. 

"What both parties are forgetting is synchro (as we all call it) is a SPORT with extreme ATHLETICISM, POWER, STRENGTH, FLEXIBILITY and ENDURANCE. 

"Renaming it as artistic swimming does nothing to convey the athleticism of our fabulous sport.

"If anything it's a lateral move in terms of branding and pays absolutely no respect to synchronised swimmers, past and present."

It is then claimed that the change could reduce participation and cause financial problems.

"FINA has only just recently opened the door for men to compete at [the] Worlds, and this name change will be more of a deterrent to males than a calling card," the petition adds.

A petition has been launched to oppose the name switch via ©
A petition has been launched to oppose the name switch via ©

"Synchronised Swimming today, compared to the 1950s, exemplifies the Olympic motto of Citius, Altius, Fortius - Swifter, Higher, Stronger - and it does this better than many sports currently in the Olympics.

"We are a sport that is highly dependent on volunteers, and funding, the costs of changing the name at every level could potentially cripple some organisations. 

"Is IOC and FINA prepared to help fund this rebranding? 

"There is nothing wrong with rebranding, as the sport has developed and morphed so much over the last 50 years, with the increased technical difficulty, athleticism, and inclusion of men. 

"Please involve the synchronised swimming community in this decision and make it a positive move forward for the athletes, coaches, judges, and volunteers and clubs...past and present."

Opposition appears to be especially strong in Russia, the most dominant nation in the discipline.

Figures including Russian Synchronised Swimming Federation President Alexey Vlasenko have also supported keeping the original name within the country.

"To keep the name synchronised swimming is our right, and if the Federation itself, the coaches will want it, we will do it," added Mutko, a former Sports Minister, to the TASS news agency.

"Such things as renaming are born spontaneously. 

"Now the whole species has got a new name, and what is the point? 

"The main thing is that the changes in the rules do not follow."

Every reference to "synchronised" in the FINA constitution has been switched for "artistic".

This begins with clause 3.1, which now reads: "Aquatics - means swimming, open water swimming, diving, high diving, water polo, artistic swimming and masters programme/activity".

Synchronised swimming has featured on the Olympic programme since Los Angeles 1984.

Only women's duet and team events currently take place, although FINA did unsuccessfully propose a mixed duet competition for inclusion at Tokyo 2020.