Royal Commonwealth Pool looks good for Games 2014

Tom Daley at the Commonwealth Pool. Picture: Jane Barlow
Tom Daley at the Commonwealth Pool. Picture: Jane Barlow
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THE crowd falls silent in hushed anticipation. You could hear a pin drop . . . instead it’s the tiniest splash as a muscular body scythes through the water, after a series of fluid, arching twists, turns and tumbles through the air, which finally breaks the tension.

It might be Tom Daley or James Heatly. It might be Grace Reid or Sarah Barrow. Or any of the young divers in the final preparations of their training for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

And while all eyes will be on Glasgow for the vast majority of the event, the diving will be taking place in Edinburgh’s Royal Commonwealth Pool (RCP) – and the pool will need to look the part.

If the recent £37 million refurbishment of the 44-year-old swimming pool was the equivalent of 10 Years Younger – injections of filler in the ceiling, Hollywood whitening of the tiles – the Games makeover will add the kind of bling associated with Gok Wan’s Fashion Fix.

Craig Cunningham, the man in charge of the venue during the Games and part of the Glasgow 2014 team, is counting down to the days when he and 150 volunteers and 50 other staff take control of the city sporting institution on June 21.

“I’m from Edinburgh and have worked at a number of big sporting occasions like international athletics meetings at Meadowbank, even the Moonwalk, so it’s great to be involved in bringing a small part of the Games to Edinburgh,” he says.

“It’s very exciting and it will look fantastic. Glasgow doesn’t have an international competition standard diving pool, and with the RCP being upgraded it made sense to host the contest here rather than go the expense of building another venue.

“There will only be three boards used, the one metre and three metre springboards and the ten metre platform – all of which can be seen from all the seats. We’re expecting to fill all 716 of them as diving is an incredibly popular sport. It’s a real spectacle with wow factor and then there’s the Tom Daley effect. He’s such a star and if he’s fit and well he’ll be competing.”

Daley was at the Commie Pool last April when he claimed the World Series ten metre platform gold, after performing in front of near sell-out crowds in his first competitive appearance since the London Olympics. He later said: “The atmosphere stepped up [in the final] with the fireworks going off and the lights and crowd cheering. It was a little taste of London again.”

Built for the 1970 Commonwealth Games hosted in Edinburgh, it took three years and £3.84m to create the iconic RCP, which was designed by acclaimed architects Robert Matthew and Stirrat Johnson-Marshall and opened by Princess Anne.

While it became the pool of choice for thousands of Edinburgh children as they learned to swim, it rose to the occasion again in 1986 when Edinburgh hosted the Games again.

In 2009, it closed its doors for another three years while undergoing a long overdue refurb. It now boasts a state-of-the-art 25-metre diving pool with a moveable floor and was recently named one of the top ten public pools in the world by the leading travel website Lonely Planet.

“It really is a marvellous facility,” says Craig. “But to make it part of the whole Games experience it will be rebranded with the Glasgow 2014 logos and other banners.

“We can’t say too much about how they will look, but there will be a new security fence right round the building and it will draped with banners to make it look attractive and we’ll make full use of the flagpoles so people will know it’s a Games venue from quite a distance.

“Inside there will be a lot of additional lighting for broadcasters. And behind the diving pool itself there will be massive banners which will provide
the backdrop to the whole contest.

“Dressing the venue will take some time, and we’ll only have a fortnight to do it all. The flags of competing nations will be hung around the pool, the medal podium will need to be installed, some of the changing area will have to be made ready for physios and medical teams and anti-doping staff. There’s masses to do.”

But while the glory of the Games is obviously Glasgow’s, how will those watching know that the diving is taking place in Edinburgh?

“I think the broadcasters will make sure people know where it’s coming from,” says Craig. “And I’m sure there’ll be much filming outside to give people a sense of place.”

While the Games are on, the RCP will obviously be shut to the general public - in fact it will be closed until August 15. But Edinburgh Leisure is at pains to point out other swimming pools will be
open as usual, and in fact Warrender Baths will open at 5.30am from Monday to Saturday.

Graeme Gardiner, director of operations at Edinburgh Leisure, says: “We are thrilled and extremely proud to host the diving event for Glasgow 2014.”

And Craig adds: “The planning has had the athletes at the heart of it. It’s a sporting event and they’ve been training very hard for medals. That’s what it really all about.”