Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

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?