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7 Dundee Olympia revelations as crisis-hit pool closes again

Swimmers reportedly turned up to find the training pool had been emptied of water.

The Olympia leisure centre in Dundee. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson.
The Olympia leisure centre in Dundee. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson.

Dundee’s beleaguered Olympia Centre has hit the headlines again after the training pool was closed due to being “emptied of water”.

Members of swimming clubs arrived at the leisure centre on Tuesday morning, only to be told the 50m pool was unavailable for use for at least 48 hours.

Leisure and Culture Dundee called it a “short-term technical issue”.

It comes just three weeks after the leisure and toddler pools at the centre re-opened, following a three-month closure due to issues with the flumes structure.

A metal rod fell and nearly hit swimmers before the closure.

It has further emerged there has also been an issue with the “dosing” of pool chemicals since the Olympia reopened in December.

This came less than two months after the Olympia re-opened following a two-year closure and £6 million worth of repairs between 2021 and 2023, which included addressing corrosion on the flumes.

And it’s the latest instalment in the long-running saga of Dundee’s flagship leisure facility, plagued with problems since it opened in 2013.

The Courier takes a look at seven of the biggest Olympia revelations.

1 – £33m building deteriorating weeks after opening

Emails, uncovered through a Freedom of Information request, revealed issues which led to the long-term closure of the Olympia were raised years ago but never acted on.

Exchanges between senior staff at Dundee City Council and Leisure and Culture Dundee (L&CD) shone a light on the volume of problems at the plagued facility.

Steel frame of the new Olympia during its construction. Image: DC Thomson.

The issues included rust falling from the flume platform on to the poolside below, corroded bolts and water leaking on to electrical switchgear.

One alarming fixture failure saw a large bolt helping to hold a window in place SNAP after becoming “severely corroded”.

Despite this, the pools remained open and no major maintenance or repair work requiring its closure had been carried out since 2014 — just a year after it opened.

2 – Serious corrosion due to ‘poor maintenance’

A list of issues and defects, thought to have been supplied in February 2021, revealed more details about the state of the building.

It included the “corroding of stainless steel handrails, barriers, gates”, noting: “It has been concluded that the condition of stainless steel is a result of poor maintenance/housekeeping.

The report which highlighted poor maintenance and housekeeping.

A failure of the pool hall cameras, problems with the staff entrance door and air quality and ventilation issues were also down as “urgent” problems.

3 – ‘Catastrophic’ losses of £2m

The ongoing closure of the Olympia centre for refurbishment works has resulted in what’s been described as “catastrophic” losses for the operator.

Last year, senior executives at Leisure & Culture Dundee revealed the facility had lost more than £2 million over the previous two financial years.

Before this period, the Olympia brought in a surplus of at least £100,000, with these funds used to prop up other crucial leisure services in the city.

The facility’s financial woes led to questions over their potential knock-on effects.

4 – Dundee City Council accused of misleading public

Earlier this year the local authority was accused of misleading the public after it was confirmed they would not be pursuing the Olympia builders for compensation.

The council had previously said it would be “inappropriate to comment” on whether it was attempting to recoup compensation for the £6m repairs from builders Balfour Beatty.

But a Freedom of Information request forced them to confirm “there are no active legal cases involving Olympia Leisure Centre”.

That admission leaves local taxpayers footing the bill.

5 – Concerns of former Dundee City Council leader

Ken Guild, the leader of the local authority at the time Olympia was built, last year told The Courier he always had concerns about the site of the crisis-hit centre.

The retired councillor said the administration felt pressure to keep the new Olympia  – replacing the old one at the Waterfront – in the centre of the city, rather than a more spacious site on the outskirts.

Former Dundee City Council leader Ken Guild.  Image: DC Thomson.

Mr Guild added he was worried the East Whale Lane plot for the £33 million swimming facility was “cramped”.

The pools complex was built on the site of a former car park.

He added: “That location would not have been my first choice.”

6 – Olympia pool too short for competition

In May 2022, it was claimed the integrity of competitions held at the facility may been have been compromised as the pool was “too short”.

We reported how a “list of defects” published in May 2014 found it was short in both 25m and 50m modes.

The pool at the Olympia was found to be short in both 25m and 50m modes. Kim Cessford/DC Thomson.

This led to David Haig, head coach at Dundee City Aquatics, calling for competitions held at the venue to be reviewed by Scottish Swimming, amid fears they could now be invalid.

7 – Fire dampeners unchecked

The Courier revealed bosses at the Olympia in Dundee neglected industry guidance on fire damper testing for eight years.

A Freedom of Information request confirmed no tests were carried out on the fire dampers at the building between its opening in June 2013 and closure in October 2021.

This is despite rules stating they should be tested by a “competent person” at least once year.

A subsequent review of the fire dampers at the Olympia identified 102 issues, which led to remedial works were then actioned by Dundee City Council.

The exact cost of the works has not been made public but a whistleblower who contacted The Courier claims it is in the region of £400,000.