|Location: Olympic Park, Homebush, NSW, Australia
Configuration: 10 lanes x 50 meters in competition pool
After 65 pools, I finally got to swim in one that hosted the Olympics! The Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre complex is absolutely massive, the equivalent of putting my favorite Icelandic pool facility all under one roof. Other similarities with Laugardalslaug include a water slide, play pools, hot tubs, and a second lap pool. We focused on the competition pool, following in the strokes of greatness in the fast lane.
Before I get to the pool, though, I want to direct your attention to the true highlight: the Dive into History exhibit. We almost didn’t even see this due to its location, and I wish we’d visited here before swimming because it greatly heightened my appreciation for the pool. If your time is limited, I would go so far as to recommend visiting the exhibit in lieu of the pool.
Starting with the building of the pool and Sydney’s Olympic bid, the exhibit then covers many of the great swims and events that have taken place in the competition pool. Some things I learned:
|Another highlight after my fast-lane swim was alighting the Olympic podium at the end of the exhibition. Jo and Frankie had given me an Aussie flag towel, which seemed the perfect accessory for the occasion.
So, how was my swim? Pool-wise, I’d have to rate this as my least favorite in this country so far. It was busier than others we’ve visited, and some of the other swim tourists had a much less developed sense of pool etiquette than my own. I felt a bit like a New Yorker trying to speed walk through a crowded Times Square. The energy-efficient lighting was less than inspiring–the ceiling would have benefited from more clear sections à la Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre–and the bottom of the pool was getting discolored in spots.
The water playgrounds were extremely popular with families, so by the time of our visit late in the day the change rooms were pretty much a wreck, rivaling even Baruch‘s for grossness. As seems to be the norm in this country, you have to pay extra for a locker, and pool toys such as pull buoys and kickboards are nowhere to be found.
To get here, we took a long ferry ride west from the city center, meandering into coves and bays for stops along the way. I highly recommend this journey, both for the changing views of the famed Harbour Bridge and Opera House and to gain more appreciation for Sydneysiders’ relationship with the water. Every single building seems to be positioned to maximize water views. In look and feel, it reminded me a bit of Lake Austin, but with much more public access.
My gripes about the pool are all quite minor and a happy side effect of the fabulous other places we’ve swum. It is truly a thrill to swim in Olympic waters, and my cap is off to the designers’ foresight in creating a thriving community facility that endures long after the Games.
#66: Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centreon January 1, 2014