THERE couldn't be a more pertinent time for a renewed push for an indoor 50m pool in Ballarat than while our elite swimmers seek glory at the London Olympics.
Given the exploits of our swimmers over many decades and the significant focus on swimming as a means of enjoyment, safety and competition in our nation, it’s more than just an anomaly that a regional centre such as Ballarat does not have an large indoor pool.
It’s not to say that the city isn’t well catered for – the investment in the Ballarat Aquatic Centre and various outdoor pools has been substantial in the past decade – it’s just that the city’s potential elite competitors are limited by a lack of elite venues.
We shouldn’t be surprised that of all the athletes representing “Team Ballarat” at the Olympics, none currently live full-time in our city.
The ability to live, train and access the facilities, equipment and coaching is much easier when based in metropolitan centres where elite training centres and programs exist. Accepting this to be the case is accepting that success on elite sporting grounds is not important. We know by the interest in these, and previous, Olympic Games that is not the case. Australia is an active nation which enjoys a sporting contest like no other. Our athletes and our teams often achieve above and beyond expectations. Mostly, they make us proud.
It’s an interesting cultural debate, given the perception about how little achievement in academic or arts fields is represented in the media and in the community.
More to the point, it tends to accentuate the significant spending that is handed out by governments to sports facilities and initiatives.
In Ballarat, a band of sporting groups is seeking $80 million to help redevelop the Eureka Stadium precinct into a world-class sports and entertainment area.
A 50m indoor pool would add significantly to this proposal, not only because it would add diversity but because it provides something Ballarat currently does not have – or is likely to get any time soon.
In the afterglow of the Olympics we’ll know doubt feel warm and fuzzy about the achievements of our athletes, win, lose or draw.
Investing in facilities which not only could keep budding sports stars in Ballarat, or even attract them from other regions can’t be bad for our city in the long term.