We first heard of the successful Olympic bid by London in 2007 there was a general cheer among all sports facility providers, who could see extra work looming, writes Mike Beardall. But the main selling point of staging a UK Olympics was the ’lasting legacy’ which the Government and sports bodies were keen to promote. Swimming has undoubtedly benefitted with vastly improved local authority facilities, new pools and an increase in the number of youngsters taking up the sport, both as physical activity and competition.
This is good for the swimming pool industry, which has come under increasing pressure in the last two years of economic turmoil. This is also good news for local authority-run swimming pools – which had been getting short shrift in financial terms – that were given a fresh boost. We have also seen new pools and improved facilities across the breadth of the UK. New 50 metre Olympic-size pools have been built, or are under construction, in Aberdeen, Acton, Bristol, Luton, Basildon, Bangor (County Down) and Plymouth. Redbridge in Essex is also planning to build an Olympic-size pool and has appointed architects.
The Plymouth Life Centre has the only 10-lane, 50-metre Olympic sized competition swimming pool in the South West. It also has
one of the top four diving pools in the country and a dry-side training facility for competitive divers.
The swimming and diving pools’ moveable floors and booms provides the equivalent of five 25-metre pools in addition to a family leisure pool, which is much more water space than the city has ever offered. “The Plymouth Life Centre is a shining example of sporting excellence that the whole of the South West region can be proud,” declares Councillor Vivien Pengelly, the Leader of Plymouth City
Council. “A wide variety of people will benefit from the centre and there is something on offer for everyone. We want to create a lasting legacy and inspire people across Plymouth to achieve life-long participation in sport and physical activity.”
Plymouth City Council has received financial support from key capital funding partners including £2.5 million from Plymouth University and £2 million from Sport England’s Iconic Facilities Fund, which – as part of the £135 million Places People Play legacy programme – is bringing the magic of a home Olympic and Paralympic Games into communities across the country.
Every Olympics offers an opportunity for a 50m swimming stock take. Latest Government information records Olympicsize swimming pools in the UK which conform to the Olympic standard. Additionally, it lists other long-course facilities that do not quite come up to the full standard of 50 × 25 metres, 10 (middle 8 used) lanes. The provision of 50m swimming pools in the UK was very poor at one time. Few universities possessed 50-metre pools, and there was a marked reluctance on the part of local authorities to build new public long-course facilities. But as of last year, a substantial number of pools had either recently opened, or were under development with the successful bid to hold the 2012 summer Olympics in London undoubtedly adding impetus – with a number of new venues due for completion before the Games (Basildon, Bristol and Luton for example). Although some existing pools are still under threat and may not be replaced by 50-metre facilities.
Currently, no university in the UK possesses an Olympic standard pool, though several have an eight-lane 50-metre pool. The Aberdeen Aquatics Centre, under construction and due to open in 2014, is being part-funded by the University of Aberdeen and will be the main pool facility for the University.
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