Archive for September, 2012

They Really Are Shameless

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

By David

I have no idea how many Swimwatch readers have been following the Kim Dotcom case. The New Zealand spying agency – for American readers that’s a sort of rowboat version of the American CIA battleship – has been illegally collecting information on a multimillionaire resident called Kim Dotcom. The fact that spying on New Zealand citizens and residents is completely illegal was of no consequence to this bunch of crooks. They clearly held the view that because they were government spies they were above the law. All New Zealanders should be pleased that the spies have been caught out and are getting their bottoms smacked for cheating on their country.

Lord Acton first used the phrase, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” And he was right. There is no excuse for New Zealand’s disgraceful treatment of Kim Dotcom. All the charges brought against him should be dropped immediately. He should be paid several million in compensation, have his legal bill refunded and left to live a quiet life in the New Zealand he chose for that very purpose.

For the last two years Swimming New Zealand displayed the behaviour of the national security service. Minutes of meetings were doctored, directors extended their terms beyond constitutional limits and the threat of money was used to alter the democratic vote of the Board. It was terrible. Finally a coalition of swimming regions saw the need for change and used their constitutional power to demand reform. Unfortunately the power brokers of New Zealand sport saw the demand for change as an opportunity to impose their control. And that’s what they did. A new constitution was imposed using both organizational fatigue and a “take it all or leave it all threat”. Power was centralized in a stunning example of socialist control. Miskimmin from Sport New Zealand and Baumann from High Performance Sport New Zealand are now in full control. The rule of swimming in New Zealand resides in Wellington.

The manner of their ascent to power provides little comfort that these two will exercise their authority properly. Leopards do not change their spots. However in the spirit of fair play many of us have assumed a wait and see stance. Well, we did not have to wait long.

Yesterday Swimming New Zealand sent out a memo to the clubs and the regions. Here is what it said.

Pool Configuration.

This year’s SC Championships will be run in the deep end of the Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre, with warm up/down at the shallow end of the pool. Special thanks must go to Swimming Wellington, Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre and the Wellington City Council for making this possible. With the different setup, make sure you are familiar with the new setup prior to the championship starting.

Would you believe it – special thanks must go to Swimming Wellington, Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre and the Wellington City Council for making this possible. Actually the special thanks to the Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre and the Wellington City Council is probably fair enough. They have spent a small fortune getting the starting blocks and the electronics ready for the change of end.

But Swimming Wellington and Swimming New Zealand; what’s all that about? Six months ago wasn’t it those two clones that took my $50 protest fee and told me the pool was perfect the way it was? Wasn’t it their referee and their Jury of Appeal who dismissed my protest with half a dozen unsigned words scribbled with a blunt pencil? Wasn’t it the acting CEO of Swimming New Zealand, Sue Suckling, who gave me a verbal water-boarding, questioning my motives for protesting the failings of the Kilbirnie Pool?

Yes it was all those things. Would the Kilbirnie Pool have been changed if David Wright, West Auckland Aquatics and Auckland Swimming hadn’t lodged a protest six months ago. Of course it would not have been changed. For twenty years the people running Swimming Wellington and Swimming New Zealand had watched their swimmers dive into a dangerous pool that did not comply with FINA rules.

Swimming New Zealand’s press release is all the old spin on the truth back again. Mike Byrne and Sue Suckling appear to have that skill in common. Are they incapable of telling the truth? Why couldn’t their story say that following a protest lodged at the Age Group Championships it had been decided to alter the pool? Why couldn’t they offer to refund my $50? The actions of Swimming New Zealand and Wellington Swimming since the protest confirm beyond the slightest doubt that the protest was solid gold. The officials who dismissed it were wrong and their error should be corrected.

It won’t happen of course and that’s sad. It would have been fantastic to write a good news story about the new regime at Swimming New Zealand; a story of honesty, integrity and character. Instead it’s the same old, same old and I hate it. I hate it because from that rotten foundation potential New Zealand champions will struggle to beat the world. Kim Dotcom and Lord Acton understand exactly how I feel.

Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

By David

I find the expression, “I told you so” to be one of the most pious, hypocritical and bad mannered sentiments one human being can say to another. If it’s true then it does not need to be said. Both parties are fully aware that events have turned out in the accuser’s favour. I’ve only used it once, but only after the most severe provocation. When Moller finally produced his new constitution and rammed it down our throat, I said to one of the leaders of the Coalition of Regions, “I told you so.” The minute the Coalition sat down to do a deal with Miskimmin, Swimming New Zealand was going to be centralized and controlled by the Head Office of SPARC. The Coalition was going to be turned on a spit; done to perfection. And Moller was a Michelin five star cook.

The temptation to repeat the phrase arose again this week. But instead I have used the first line of the song playing on Coast radio just now as the title of this story – where have all the flowers gone? It has no relevance to the story but it’s better than resorting to “I told you so.” Some readers may recall that a year ago I protested the suitability of the Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre as a venue for championship competition. Swimmers were being asked to dive into a pool that was dangerously shallow and did not meet the FINA standard depth required at the starting end of a championship pool. My protest was delivered by the Auckland Team Manager together with my fee of $50.

Of course, I got nowhere. The protest and my appeal were rejected out of hand. The referee – I can’t remember his name – refused to discuss the protest or the appeal. Instead he scribbled a couple of lines in pencil on my protest form that said something like, “Protest rejected. FINA rules say should not must.” And Swimming New Zealand kept my $50. But, more important, a few hundred swimmers were left to risk cervical fracture by diving into seriously shallow water. Fortunately the only damage to one of my swimmers was a scraped knee acquired during the start of a breaststroke race.

For quite some time after the meet my protest was used as proof positive that I was an irrational trouble maker. They have always made that claim and here was their “smoking gun”. That line of argument faded somewhat when a New Zealand main stream journalist contacted FINA for their view on Swimming New Zealand’s use of a sub-standard pool. The boss of FINA gave Swimming New Zealand a rap over the knuckles and joined sides with the sport’s irrational trouble maker. Kilbirnie pool was illegal and Swimming New Zealand risked having times set in the pool rejected by FINA unless they did something about it; a seriously not good look for the officials who rejected my protest. Some re-training needed there.

I resolved to protest every time the swimmers I coach were asked to dive into the shallow play-pool end of the Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre. The next occasion is not far away. In three weeks the New Zealand Spring Nationals are being held there. I have been to the bank and withdrawn $50 from my savings account in preparation. No expense will be spared.

But, this week, I have been told there are changes in the Wellington wind. I may not need my $50 after all. Perhaps I can afford another trim milk latte at an Oriental Bay cafe. The swimming gossip network tells me Swimming New Zealand are shifting the starting end for competitions held in the Wellington Aquatic Centre to the other deep, diving well end of the pool. Well, what a good idea. It’s only taken twenty five years but someone has made the right decision at last.

My guess is the change hasn’t come cheap. They have probably had to shift a whole lot of electronics and install new starting blocks. I’m told they have bought ten new “back-plate” blocks which must have set the Wellington City Council back the best part of $100,000. There won’t be much change out of $250,000 by the time all these alterations are made. But all that money counts for nothing compared to someone deciding to do the right thing; to someone deciding that the risk of a broken back was no longer worth taking. Whoever you are, well done and thank you.

Here at Swimwatch we think our $50, invested a year ago, has yielded a generous dividend. I have no doubt the changes planned would not have been made without our protest and the confirmation from the Head Office of swimming in Switzerland. Reputation and money are of little consequence when the outcome moves swimming forward. But I wonder – where have all the flowers gone?