Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Mr Nick Juba, National Swimming Team Coach at the University of Hertfordshire Swimming Pool

  I am writing to urge your Committee to support plans to upgrade the pending swimming facility at the University of Hertfordshire from 25 metres to 50 metres in length.

  Great Britain desperately needs 50 metre swimming pools to compete on equal terms with the rest of the world, and the lack of them is clearly one of the prime reasons for our recent poor performances on the world stage. Our top swimmers need to be able to train in standard major event length swimming pools in order to simulate race conditions.

  It is clear that too many British swimmers train "short-course" (that is in 25 metre pools or in other odd shape lengths ie 33 metres, 36 yards etc), and are ill-prepared for "long-course" events such as the Olympic Games or the World Championships. This is a point continually reinforced by Bill Sweetenham, Britain's National Performance Director, who has been recruited from Australia where they have countless 50 metre pools. Sweetenham, and John Atkinson, the Director of World Class Potential, are both huge supporters of the 50 metre project at Hatfield.

  London and the Home Counties are especially ill-equipped for 50 metre pools. There are sub-standard and ageing facilities at High Wycombe and Ealing, both of which are six lanes in width and not the required eight lanes. Crystal Palace in the south of the City is due for refurbishment at a date yet to be agreed and is currently in decline. Nothing else is in the pipeline for the immediate future in the London area despite aspirations for the London Olympic bid.

  The UH pool, by contrast, is due to start shortly and be completed by the autumn of 2003. It would be a magnificent facility on their new campus on the de Havilland site in Hatfield, and would serve all aspects of the public domain—from local community and roots requirements through to local clubs and elite performance swimmers. It would equally serve swimming on a grander scale by offering a wide and large population area a 50 metre swimming facility. Currently there is no long-course swimming pool between north London and Coventry, a vast area that covers much of London, the Home Counties, the South Midlands and East Anglia.

  Hatfield is a particularly thriving swimming area and the local club has a high National ranking. One of their young swimmers, Vicky Cook, is the fastest 16 year-old swimmer in the world and is heralded by Sweetenham as Britain's "star" of the future. Another swimmer, Jody Cundy, is a triple Paralympic Gold medallist and one of Britain's great heroes from the Sydney Olympics.

  To upgrade the UH pool would probably cost between £2.5 and £3 million. At one stage Sport England offered £1 million. It was never quite enough and we need now to revisit and exert pressure on them urgently to try to secure that extra funding. I am sure that with your support that this dream might still become a reality.

9 December 2001

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