The closure of Dundee’s Olympia swimming pools until late next year has been described a “devastating blow” for the community.
Dundee City Council has confirmed that several million pounds’ worth of work is required after a number of issues were discovered at the venue.
But what has gone so wrong at the £32 million facility that it needs to close for such a lengthy period, just over eight years after it opened?
1. Why did the Olympia pools close?
A new council report has revealed that initial concerns emerged about two months ago.
A health and safety “risk issue” was identified at the Olympia on September 29 “due to a failure of fixings associated with the light fitting mountings in the pool area”.
Although other fittings ensured the lights did not fall off, the decision was made in mid-October to close the pool facilities.
2. Why were the problems not fixed?
The council says that inspections were carried out and contractors were instructed to carry out “immediate rectification works” to replace the light fixings and reopen the building as soon as possible.
However, during the closure, other areas of the facility were inspected and issues were found with two curtain wall bolt fixings.
As a result, the council decided to extended the closure and survey the entire Olympia centre.
3. What work needs done?
The inspection has revealed that work is needed to fix surface and superficial corrosion, upgrade and fix draining issues, and replace the flumes.
The report states that council officers had planned works to fix “building fabric issues” before the light fixing issue was identified.
However, these works had not been scheduled by the time the lighting problem was discovered.
The exact cause of the corrosion, including the issues with the light fittings and the flumes, has not been confirmed.
4. Is anyone at fault?
The centre opened just over eight years ago at a cost of £32m, and many have raised concerns that it has been forced into a prolonged closure so quickly.
The council insists that the Olympia‘s long operational hours and “high usage within an intensive internal environment” means it will “always require periodic component replacement and regular planned maintenance”.
It has vowed to review the operational management of the Olympia “to assist with the protection and longevity” of the facility.
The report adds: “It should be recognised and acknowledged that future works, to varying degrees, will be required on a periodic basis throughout the operational life of this building.
Labour councillor Michael Marra has called for an inquiry into the shutdown and the cost of repairs at the facility, saying it has “aged poorly in a very short period of time”.
But SNP council leader John Alexander claims the old Olympia underwent a yearly shutdown for maintenance, and it is “commonplace across pools of this nature”.
5. How long the pools will be shut?
The exact timescale for the work has yet to be confirmed but the council predicts that it will get under way in early 2022.
It is thought that the work will take about 45 weeks to complete, meaning the pools are likely to remain shut until late next year.
Factoring in the time since the closure in October, it will mean the pools will have been closed for more than a year by the time they welcome swimmers back.
6. How much will it cost and who will pay?
The work is estimated to cost between £3.5m and £4.5m.
However, the council says that the final sum will be confirmed at the stage of putting the work out to tender – and with some elements of the work still being scoped, other costs may yet arise.
It says funding for the work will be met “through a combination of borrowing and unapplied capital receipts” – meaning taxpayers will ultimately foot the bill.
7. What has the reaction been so far?
Groups that use the pools have hit out at news of the prolonged closure.
David Haig, head coach for Dundee City Aquatics, has branded it a “devastating blow” for the community and warned Dundee could lose a generation of athletes.
He claims it is down to a “very poorly built facility that has been rusting from almost the outset”.
Gordon Currie, president of Perth City Swim Club, says the loss of the use of the Olympia will be “massively disruptive” to clubs across Tayside.
He added: “Pool time is already at a premium in this area due to a lack of forward planning and investment and this second major closure in a row will have a knock-on effect for years to come.”
Members of the public have also reacted with anger to the closure on social meda.
Pointing out that the Olympia was shut for months due to Covid, Philip Milne wrote: “So it’s been closed since last March and only now do they think about repairs?”
Susan Morrison posted: “So the old one lasted so much longer but was deemed out of date? Why can’t they build things properly these days and why can’t builders be held to account?”
The young competitive swimmers and water polo players in Dundee are being badly let down
Lynn McAlpine wrote: “Surely someone should have foreseen this before now.”
Ruth Bickerton posted: “The young competitive swimmers and water polo players in Dundee are being badly let down by our local facilities.
“Months out with lockdown, now lacking vital training time and local competitive opportunities.
“There are amazing kids in Dundee trying to compete at regional and national levels, who can’t get the opportunities they deserve because of facility failures.”
8. Where else can you go to swim?
With the Olympia shut and Lochee Swimming Pool also closed for work until December 6, swimmers in Dundee have no access to any pools during the day.