Why don’t we have an Olympic swimming pool?

If there was an
Olympic-size swimming pool in the Cayman Islands it would only be a matter of
time before the country won its first ever medal at the biggest sporting stage
of all.

Cayman has produced
four Olympic swimmers in the past two Games – brothers Shaune and Brett Fraser,
Andrew Mackay and Heather Roffey – and that’s despite the tiny, inadequate pool
at the Lion’s Aquatic Centre. Swimming is the most successful sport here by a
proverbial mile and consensus is that if a state-of-the-art 50 metre pool
existed here, Cayman would be churning out champion torpedoes that would make
them the envy of the world’s swimming fraternity.

So why isn’t there
one? It has been in the works for years and some funds have been collected but
the answer is obvious. Cost, basically. Around $7m to build one and an annual
six-figure sum to maintain it. In a recession, sports funding always suffers.
Right now, if they committed, the Government would be out of its, eh,
depth.   

National Swimming
Coach Dominic Ross says: “The plans for the 50m pool are currently on hold.
Given the current economic climate we feel this is the best approach. This
project will require Government backing when it does eventually go ahead and as
they are clearly not in a position to do this we feel it best that while not by
any means giving up on the project, that it be postponed for the time being.”

How significant does
Ross feel an Olympic pool here would be? After all, Cayman has plenty of
magnificent open water that the kids can train in. “The pool would essentially
triple the amount of space we currently have at the now slightly over utilised
Lion’s Pool. It would allow for near constant public access during opening hours
as well as the expansion of the current services offered and the addition of
other services such as water aerobics classes and water polo. It would also
give us the ability to host regional competitions such as CARIFTA.”

Shaune Fraser, 22,
has represented Cayman at the last two Olympics and is the country’s best bet
for an Olympic medal at the 2012 London Games. Like Ross, the Government funded
elite swimmer understands the situation. “Cayman is currently facing difficult
economic times that have not been experienced on these islands for many
decades,” he says. “Although an Olympic pool is needed, Government has far
greater issues that need to be addressed.

“Anyway, an
Olympic-sized pool does not necessarily produce Olympians. Far more important
is that it would allow every school child to become ‘water resistant’ which is
critical living on an island. Swimming is a life skill. Once you learn it you
will never forget. A 50m pool can handle three times the number of bodies than
a 25m pool. Of course the more children you can expose to water the greater the
likelihood that some will aspire to be Olympians.”

Had Fraser been able
to train in an Olympic-sized pool he does not think he would necessarily be any
better now but would certainly not have had to travel so extensively in his
formative years. It would have saved his parents Jim and Laurice a lot of money
and not drained so much Government and sponsorship funding.

Nevertheless, an
Olympic pool would have raised the overall swimming standards here, brought tremendous
kudos and the tangible rewards of more tourism dollars. The annual Flowers Sea
Swim in June is Cayman’s biggest sporting event. It seems a false economy not
to have an Olympic-sized pool.

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