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FINA: Delhi Pool Is Sub-Standard

Jul 31, 2010  - Craig Lord

A chink of light: a public declaration of truth from a high-ranking official more concerned with the interests of athletes than saving face for organisers of a Commonwealth Games and a Commonwealth Games federation that are falling shy of delivering adequate facilities and competition conditions for its showcase event in Delhi this October.

The Swimming Federation of India saved the day, it seems, at a test Federation Cup event that was given a tick by FINA for the coal-face organising skills on show, but a severe ticking off for a facility - the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee aquatic centre - described as "world-class" by India but dubbed "sub-standard" and suffering from poor construction by FINA Bureau member Sam Ramsamy. 

His view carries all the more weight because Ramsamy is the man charged by FINA to represent its views, to be its face and voice before the world media.

After his visit to Delhi, Indian media reports Ramsamy as listing the following areas of concern: four smallish changing rooms and an inadequate number of showers will not fit the bill; lack of lockers and lack of space for the swimmers and divers to rest during the day will not fit the bill; the low roof is problematic; a lack of starting blocks in the warm-up pool falls shy of international standards (and by some measure and by many a long year). He also agreed with local concerns that a lift to the diving platforms that had been there for 28 years has been removed, leaving the diving tower  incomplete and that the tiling of the pools was "sub-standard".

"The top swimmers from Australia, Great Britain, Canada and South Africa have committed themselves to coming to Delhi. Swimming is the only sport where top athletes have not withdrawn and hence, it will be a major attraction with high international focus. The swimming facility has to be the very best but sadly as of now, that's not the case," Ramaswamy told The Times of India. "The facility is not completely ready. Some of the work is shoddy and haphazardly done and material used is of poor quality. Some are already damaged. I've been promised that the construction company will replace all of that but till the facility isn't complete I wouldn't be able to comment on it."

SFI (Swim Fed of India) General Secretary Virendra Nanavati weighed in with: “The SFI has kept a low key profile from the very start. We were not consulted in any technical matter while the stadium was being constructed. As we all know, the elevator in the diving tower (in use since 1982) was removed stating that the FINA rules did not make it mandatory. For the sake of argument, I could have said, the rules don't mention the need for stairs in the diving tower. My question was, why remove the elevator that was in use for 28 years? How will we explain the absence of the elevator to the divers when they come here for the Games? Mercifully, now, it seems there is some re-thinking on the subject.”

A.S.V. Prasad, the Joint Director-General (Sport) of the Organising Committee, is quoted as saying  that he would talk to the civil engineers concerned about the possibility of installing an elevator in time for the Games.

At the test Federation Cup event, the platform diving events were called off because anti-skid mats were not available. They are yet to be ordered from the European manufacturer that was due to have provided them, according to Indian media reports.

“The SFI has been requesting for the equipment needed for the test event but all we got were assurances,” Nanavati told The Hindu. 

A little over 60 days remain before the Commonwealth begins to gather for competition. India is far from being ready. Action, not blame, is called for to ensure the job gets done but among those who need to revisit their modus operandi are all those many quoted officials sent to Delhi from around the world, mostly on the wings of a public purse under serious pressure in straightened times, to inspect and report back. Most have supped at the cup of hospitality but failed to air their concerns in determined fashion. Many are the rumours that reached the ear of the media over the past several months. But whispers and private "update" reports on the desks of bureaucrats coupled with public statements to the effect of "there are some problems but all will be well and the organisers are doing a fine job of catching up" fall well shy of what Sam Ramsamy has now done: told it like it is. 

The Commonwealth swimming complex is sub-standard and would be totally unacceptable as host to a world-class FINA event. Much work to be done before October.