Olympic Legacy Won’t Save North East Swimming Pools

The success of the London 2012 Olympic Games has been much talked about, but with controversy over the future of the Olympic Park and arguments about the true cost of the games continuing, it is the rest of the country that is beginning to feel the pinch. The North East played host to Olympic football, with Newcastle United’s legendary St James’ Park as one of the chosen venues, and the region has a long history of producing Olympians, not least in the world of swimming.

City Pool to Close?

The irony of the Olympic successes is soundly expressed in the problems facing Newcastle’s swimming pools, not least the City Pool, a facility that has produced a selection of internationally successful swimmers and one that now faces closure. Escalating costs and, according to councillors, an over-provision of swimming pools in the region threatens to end the City Pool’s long and illustrious association with top-level athletes.

A Massive Shock to the Club

The City of Newcastle Amateur Swimming Club, which is based at City Pool, is in shock at the news. Head Coach Louise Graham said:

“The news of the threatened closure has come as a massive shock to the club and our swimmers. It is ironic that in 2012 Newcastle’s Olympic legacy threatens to be the closure of the City Pool, the home to the city’s Swimming Club and some of the region’s best swimming talent.”

Sports Minister Hugh Robertson, on a recent visit to the region, expressed his concern that closing the pools would pose a threat to the strong sporting tradition that pervades in the North East, and called on the council to consider its options.

Over-Provision of Pools

Tony McKenna, Head of Leisure Services, did not agree, explaining:

“In the case of the City Pool, the building requires such a lot of investment that it is difficult to envisage any organisation wanting to run it as a pool, and the council isn’t in a position to fund the capital work needed. Consequently, we think the only viable option is to close the pool. This isn’t something that we want to do, but we need to do it to strike a balanced budget and continue to support swimming across the city. The University of Northumbria pool is open to the public and is on the same street, some 250m away from the City Pool. It’s a two-year-old, state-of-the-art facility which will welcome displaced swimmers form the City Pool with open arms. The two pools run by community organisations in Fenham and Jesmond will also continue to provide opportunities for swimming in the city.”

The Olympics may have been a raging success, but it would appear that the North East is going to suffer some serious cuts in its leisure facilities.

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