As Raiders’ and Brumbies’ supporters brave the cold at Canberra Stadium and imagine what life might be like under the closed roof of an indoor facility, spare a thought for those involved in what would have to be the ACT’s most disadvantaged sport.
Canberra’s springboard diving community is like the bride left at the altar as they come to terms with another broken promise.
In fact, no other sport has been promised more yet received so little. Motor sport is the only other to come remotely close, but at least they had money allocated for a new facility at Majura, only to see it disappear into the great unknown of ACT Government’s consolidated revenue for disbursement.
Divers currently use the only available facility at the Canberra Olympic Pool in Civic, which is an outdoor facility. As such, it is closed for diving for about eight months of each and every year. With the proposed indoor stadium for the Brumbies and the Raiders set to be built on the Olympic Pool site the divers could be left without a facility. They have recently been told it will cost seven million dollars to build a diving pool at the new Molonglo Aquatic Centre at Stromlo, but this is not proposed for Stage One of the development. Given the delays in building the new Civic indoor stadium, the diving pool, which was built in the lead-up to the 1956 Olympic Games, could be here for a few more years. The point though is that what is really needed is a diving facility that can be utilised year round, not just in the summer months.
There is a litany of broken promises leading up to this moment. When CISAC was built in Belconnen there were future plans to build a deep pool for springboard divers. This Plan B didn’t eventuate. Canberra’s divers were hoping to get some boards at the Gungahlin pool complex when it was built but, instead, they were told the planned aquatic centre beside Lake Burley Griffin would include a diving facility for them. Divers have now been told that this won’t be happening. Then there was Molonglo, but again, they have been told that diving will be included in Part B. They are now not sure whether Part B will ever eventuate.
Some have asked why the current diving pool can’t be accommodated within a bubble roof similar to the one covering the adjacent 50-metre pool at the Canberra Olympic Pool complex.
Ann Widdup is the coach of the Canberra Diving Academy. Ann is possibly one of the most positive people I have ever encountered in Canberra sport. When asked whether her sport had been shuffled around, she responds, “Totally! We are always optimistic that we will get a dive pool upgrade. We keep applying pressure to get a pool that is deep enough to provide for our sport but unfortunately, we get promises but nothing comes through.”
Many will be asking at this point just how many competitive divers are there in Canberra to justify the expense? It’s a good point but probably doesn’t take into account the ‘Catch 22’ the divers find themselves in.
There are about 30 competitive divers in Canberra but it could be argued the number would be far greater if they didn’t have to stop and re-start the sport every year. Cricketers play indoors, soccer players play Futsal, outdoor swimmers go indoors, and divers do dry-land training for eight months. Ann says, “Other pools have a full dry-land gymnasium that is designed for diving. In Canberra, we have a dive board outdoors at the Canberra Olympic Pool and we bring out mats from a container and put them out and dive off dive boards onto mats without hand entries. We only do feet entry practice.” One can only imagine that this form of training has the potential to be quite monotonous given the length of time the pool is closed. You have to admire the determination of those involved in the eight-month off-season. Tell professional footballers that their off-season will be longer than the season itself and they would probably head to another sport.
It is no wonder those keen to pursue the sport in Canberra move to Sydney.
Then there is the emotional attachment to the current facility. Ann says she is a little bit biased about this, “I believe the Civic Olympic Pool and land should belong to aquatic sports and I believe other sports shouldn’t be allowed to muscle in. I don’t go to somebody else’s oval and say I am going to build my pool on your oval.”
One solution could be to build a new facility elsewhere, probably at Stromlo, if the proposed Indoor Stadium goes ahead on the Olympic Pool site. Whatever happens though, for the sake of the sport and its potential growth it must be an indoor facility.
One thing I will say without hesitation is that diving is fortunate to have somebody like Ann heading the campaign for a fair go for her sport. Many would have literally thrown in the towel well before this latest setback.