ABC of Chippenham: The Olympiad
I've spent quite a bit of time delving into Chippenham's ancient past, but today I'm looking at something much more recent: The Olympiad sports centre.
When we moved to Chippenham in 1984, this place was yet to come into existence. Instead we had a wonderful 55 yard long outdoor pool in Monkton Park to lounge around in the centre of Chippenham. Around this time NAH also took up competitive swimming again - initially swimming for nearby Corsham - but then switching his allegiance to Chippenham soon afterwards*.
I quite often joined him on training sessions too (we did meet in a swimming pool after all) and in the summer some of these were held at the outdoor pool. This was fine most of the time, but backstroke was always a little tricky. Following a cloud isn't quite the same as following the lines usually found on the ceilings of indoor pools and I usually ended up in tangled mess with a lane rope ;)
However, in the mid 1980s it was announced the outdoor pool would close and be replaced by a sparkly new indoor leisure pool and sports centre. This didn't go down well with lots of Chippenham's residents at all, including NAH and there was an active campaign to save the pool. The closure still went ahead as the council said it wasn't economically viable to repair and keep the pool open. Ironically when The Olympiad opened in 1989 it had gone massively over budget. If I remember rightly it cost £6 million rather than the £4 million originally proposed and considerably more than the projected costs to repair the old pool.
Most of the sports centre you can see in the picture wasn't built over the site of the outdoor pool, though the basketball court alongside is. You can still see the grass banks which rose up from the poolside when you walk past there today. It makes me hanker for those times when sunny weather like we've had recently meant a long lazy afternoon with my towel parked on one of those banks and devouring an ice cream before taking yet another cooling dip.
However, my niece and nephew rather like the waterslides of the new pool ;)
* = his allegiance switched around pretty regularly depending on the quality of the coaching available at the time. He also founded his own swimming club Wessex Walrus for Masters swimmers, based in Melksham, as there was nothing locally catering for the needs of ancients still swimming competitively.
** = where Mark Spitz trained in the 1970s and the US Olympic swimming trials had just been held for the 1992 games in Barcelona
*** = the best I've ever managed is a silver in the south west for 400m freestyle and a bronze for 50m butterfly in Wiltshire, plus a fair few relay medals - all at Masters level.