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 ;)

This is for ABC Wednesday and is the fifteenth in my series of themed posts about Chippenham.

* = 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.

We both competed at the World Championships in Indianapolis**  for Wessex Walrus in 1992. NAH fared much better than I as he managed a top 8 placing in the 200m butterfly. I was last in the world*** in the 100m, 400m and 800m freestyle, but at least it meant I got to meet Dawn Fraser. She's one of my all time heroes and she was next to me in the line up awaiting our turn for our respective heats for the 100m. I retired from the swimming scene on our return to the UK, but NAH's still training and competing.

** = 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.


  1. What an inspiration! As ever a fantastic post for ABC Wednesday.
    Thanks so much
    Denise ABC Team

  2. an interesting Olympic history
    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  3. I too have fond memories of that pool. I loved the grassy banks for lounging on in the sun with the trees around. I hear Cirencester still has an open air pool - perhaps we should try it this summer.

  4. oops - I appear to have signed in to my son Tom's account!

  5. Goodness, that is impressively energetic of the pair of you. I love swimming in outdoor pools, though I concur with the backstroke alignment issues. What a shame they couldn't just mend what was already there, though I suspect more people get to enjoy it now that it is all indoor and heated etc.

  6. Looks quiet modern and the sky is so blue ! Apparently you have the same weather as we in Belgium.
    ABC team

  7. I am getting addicted with this blogging hobby, I get to see beautiful places and learn interesting things. Very nice O you have here..

    Mind lOOking at my O entry?, have a nice day!

  8. I'm really glad to have found your blog as I enjoyed this post a lot. I used to live quite close to Chippenham in the early 80's up at Colerne at the RAF base and I loved our weekly bus ride to Chippenham to go shopping as a toddler.

  9. You know, I would be all right with being last in a World Championship competition...I wish we had a public pool in town. They say be careful what you wish for, so I hope this comes true. :-)

  10. 'Last in the World'! What a wonderful title.

    And now I think of you wafting along in the waves, following clouds and drifting into NAH. That's the life!


  11. Hi ABCers - thanks for visiting!

    Lu - using Tom's account? Tsk Tsk!

    Ruth - good to see you! No doubt these posts on Chippenham will stir up some memories for you. Good ones I hope :)

    Esther - I'm rather proud of the title 'last in the world' too ;)


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