Fair And Balanced

By David

In our last Swimwatch article, An Open Letter to FINA, I posted a comment referring to some of the less intelligent observations made about the Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre. I resisted the temptation to turn their efforts into a separate blog. That would have been given them way too much oxygen. No, down towards the bottom of the comment’s page was more in keeping with their lack of accuracy. After all the discussion and debate it is difficult to understand how people like Bone and Fitch can’t understand that this is about safety and fairness. Right or wrong, do they suck up to a wanting organization because that what they always do? I don’t know.

However for every odd ball there are observers who do get the point; who do understand the issues. Here are three emails received today; one from New Zealand and two from overseas.

Correspondent One:

“On 22 June 2003 a Policy document was approved by the then SNZ Council “To provide clear guidelines for the allocation and safe management of SNZ national competitions.

It opened with the following, categorical statement:

“All SNZ national competition facilities shall adhere to the FINA minimum facility standards and SNZ minimum facility standards.”

And then followed up with:

“SNZ may waive certain standards for pools if they do not materially interfere with the running of the competitions; compromise the health and safety of competitors, officials or spectators; or expose SNZ to undue legal or financial risk. This will be determined on a case-by-case basis by SNZ Council.”

There then followed a list of suitable pools in which the Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre was clearly labeled – “Pool does not meet FINA Minimum standard but is approved by SNZ for designated competitions.”

The Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre was ruled by Swimming New Zealand as a FINA non-compliant pool back in 2003 and it has not changed since then.”

So SNZ have a policy document, a book of rules that says about the Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre, Pool does not meet FINA Minimum standard”. Can anyone then explain to me how Renford and Meehan can sign a record application that says, “In my opinion all FINA Rules have been met.” Both those things simply cannot be true. Is someone telling porkies in order to get a record; in order to cover up a decade of neglect? “All FINA rules have been met”, “Pool does not meet FINA Minimum standard. I’d love to hear Renford explaining that to the bosses of FINA.

Correspondent Two:

I think that many do not fully understand concerns about the lack of safety and technical non validity of this pool. The general swimming community has and will continue to rely on the ability of Swimming New Zealand to be aware of and to enforce the rules for FINA pool compliance. They put their trust in SNZ to get it right. This situation is quite different from the situation surrounding many of the other rule applications for the sport where an individual carries the responsibility of compliance. Rules pertaining to swim strokes, turns and starts are learnt as soon as a person becomes a competitive swimmer. To disregard these rules usually means a DQ for a swimmer. Such rules, as you know, are widely circulated and are enforced at the grass roots and upwards in the swimming world. But technical standards are not really thought about; a pool is just a pool to most.

Of course pool depth standards, water current circulation concerns etc are no different from the requirements of FINA for competition swimming such as the stroke, turn and start rules in so far as they all attempt to provide a relatively level playing field for those competing. Championship meets and their rules must be enforced by regional and national organisations to provide this level playing field and to care for the safety of all swimmers, as individuals may be unaware of these rules.

Most of our pools in this country are very shallow, at least at one end of a pool. Most swimmers train in this type of pool. Swimmers in general accept the shortfalls of these pools as these facilities are usually the only ones readily available. Swimmers have become accustomed to shallow pool swimming and consider that they cope well adjusting their dives and turns to minimal water depth. As a result there appears to be complacency in the swimming community to pool design, required FINA standards and the safety needs of pool users. (We in New Zealand are often just grateful to have a local pool nearby to be able to use). However, it does not excuse Swimming New Zealand from not observing and enforcing FINA standards.  Looking after our swimmers including our best swimmers is that organisation’s primary role. In my opinion SNZ should be apologising to Lauren Boyle for not having addressed the inadequacy of the Wellington pool long before her excellent world class swim there in recent days. Certainly they as an organisation have been well aware of the shortcomings of this pool well before Lauren’s recent award swimming there.

As the swimming community requires and relies on SNZ to observe FINA’s rules for the sport, it would also be helpful if this organisation  was proactive in publishing a list of complying FINA pools so that every coach, swimmer and club is aware of the pools that comply in this country.”

No comment from me is required. I endorse all this correspondent says – especially, “However, it does not excuse Swimming New Zealand from not observing and enforcing FINA standards.  Looking after our swimmers including our best swimmers is that organisation’s primary role. In my opinion, SNZ has failed in that duty.

Correspondent Three:

“The Wellington City Council swim schools have a policy that pupils are not allowed to dive into water that is 1.2m or less. That applies to all their pools. Shame it doesn’t apply or is enforced to those who hire the pool! All pools have a Health & Safety rep who can verify this ruling and the main council office has a Health & Safety officer (couldn’t find out his name but who knows the rule book inside out). Just a thought.”

I wonder if SNZ are in violation of Wellington City Council rules when they use that shallow end? I’m off to contact that Health and Safety officer to find out. SNZ, Layton and Renford – fix that pool.