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A twist to the murky pool saga in PE

April 18, 2013

Newton Park Swimming Pool at 10pm on Monday night (image ZwemZa)

Newton Park Swimming Pool at 10pm on Monday night (image ZwemZa)

While the South African National Aquatics Championships has been postponed until Thursday afternoon and some events will be contested as timed finals after the swimmers where greeted with murky green water on their arrival at the Newton Park Swimming Pool in Port Elizabeth  on Wednesday morning when arriving for warm ups and the morning heats a certain measure of controversy still surrounds the event.

This was the second time in two days that such action had been taken in an effort to resolve the murky water issue at the recently revamped and state of the art Newton Park Swimming Pool. To compound matters on Monday night a water main that feeds the area burst, thereby exacerbating the existing problem.

Wednesday saw all participants converge on the venue anticipating a serious day of racing after their unexpected forced sabbatical of the day before. With no announcements being made over the public address system and Swimming South Africa management present on deck, despite the water looking decidedly murky with a heavy sediment on the bottom, the swimmers and coaches got along with the business of getting along with warming up and getting ready for the morning session.  It was soon evident that the swimmers could not endure the high levels of chlorine and chemicals that had been placed in the water as the sediment became suspended in the water and very soon the pool was cleared of all participants.

Once again the coaches called a meeting.  However unlike the proceeding meeting the day before, when the bulk of those who attended chose to remain silent for fear of repercussions, this meeting drew engaging debate and a consensus was reached that it was in the best interests of all to request a further postponement of the event in an effort to rectify the problem at hand.

By requesting such a postponement, it would allow the LOC and the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro enough time to circulate the massive volumes of water through the filtration system and vacuum up the sediment  in an effort to clear the water so that the competition could continue.

A delegation then met with the management of Swimming South Africa and after consultation with Nelson Mandela Bay Metro officials it was agreed upon to postpone the meet until Thursday afternoon. A revised program was to be set up with some of the events becoming timed finals in an effort to complete the program within the stipulated time period. This was agreed upon and the CEO of Swimming South Africa then addressed the media, informing them of the decision.

This was widely immediately reported on regional and national radio and television, while the Social Media platforms, Facebook and Twitter were once again abuzz with varied comments, with the general consensus being that despite the inconvenience, it was in the best interests of the participants.

It was also intimated to the coaches that a squad of athletes will be selected from this event to travel to the Mare Nostrum Series in Europe during June to afford them an opportunity to once again post qualifying times for the FINA World Swimming Championships that will be held in Barcelona, Spain in July. These athletes will for the bulk of the squad that will represent South Africa in Spain.

But however, there was a further twist to the story when the head referee of the meet indicated that what had transpired with the coach’s meeting was in fact unconstitutional and that they should have followed due process and should have taken the matter up with their respective team managers who in turn should have addressed the issue with The LOC. He also indicated that the athletes and coaches also could face sanctioning and a fine.  Protocol aside, the meetings conducted by the coaches on Tuesday and Wednesday were not clandestine meetings and all those present at the gala were aware of what was transpiring.

Now I ask you……..with athletes, coaches and parents having to contribute substantial amounts of money to attend a “blue ribboned” event such as this, why didn’t the pertinent officials take the intuitive and attend these meetings to gain consensus on a solution?

Internationally South African swimmers and coaches are held in high regard as are our administrators who officiate and serve with distinction on various international boards and committees. With limited resources available to them they have continuously produced the goods at World Championship and Olympic level since South Africa’s readmission to international sport in the early 1990’s. Given that Swimming South Africa is a small Federation in numbers (approximately 10,000 members) the manner in which they compete against the likes of the USA (in excess of 250,000 members) along with the resourceful British, German, Italian, French and Australians is highly commendable. It seemed petty for to embark on threats like this because the coaches have taken a stand on the welfare of their charges.

When questioned on this matter, the head referee intimated that in terms of the rules athletes could be fined for a “no show” for an event, however the organisers had decided that such sanctioning would not be considered under the circumstances and that those who had scratched would be allowed to re-enter without any further charge. At no stage was it ever considered to implement this or any other sanctioning. Furthermore he also confirmed that the event was now no longer a selection event, by a championship event that would see a squad of athletes selected to travel to Europe in June to allow the swimmers to post the required qualifying times.

All’s well that ends well, I guess. Thursday saw stringent security being implemented at the Newton Park Swimming Pool with no unauthorised persons being allowed entry. Even members of the press were turned away as  work was in progress to meet the 17.00hr deadline for the meet to resume.

The problems encountered by the LOC, Swimming South Africa and the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro were due to unforeseen circumstances and can be seen as an act of God. The manner in which it has been handled eventually has seen an amicable solution to a crisis situation. For a while the “windy city” of Port Elizabeth has experienced a storm of hurricane proportions. One can only pray that calm will prevail for the remaining days of the competition and the efforts made to ensure that the participants are afforded the opportunity to attain their goals will bear fruit.

ZwemZa | Neville Smith


From → African News

One Comment
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