A Better Plan?

By Jim McCloskey

During last summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the swimming pools attracted an amazing amount of attention.  Unfortunately, it was only partly because of the outstanding in-pool performances offered up by swimmers, water-polo teams and divers – a feast of excellence that will live long in memory and the record books.

No, from my perspective in the watershaping business, the Rio Games pools will be immortal because of all the odd things that went wrong with the pools, from the prolonged green-water episode in the diving pool (and the weird amount of fumbling that transpired before a solution was found) and on to allegations that the hydraulic systems in the competition pool were set up in a way that made some lanes predictably faster or slower than they should have been.  (And water quality on the murky side was an issue in this pool, too.)

Lost in all of this was the fact that the pools in Rio’s main aquatics center were an innovation in design, engineering and construction – a set of modules that were to last through the Olympics before being moved and reassembled for permanent use in other locations.  But recent news reports indicate that they haven’t moved at all and have already deteriorated to a point where it’s unlikely they ever will.

A lot of this mess had to do with the way Brazil prepared for the Games and complex issues of government support and resource commitment.  The facility was striking – a bold architectural statement in line with past Olympic aquatic centers – but it was clear (or, in the case of the water, unclear) from the start that things had been rushed.

That in mind, I offer a modest proposal:  Before any future Olympic Games, the pools should be completed and ready for use in hosting the prior year’s world championships.  That way, any deficiencies will be known and the best possible remedies can be developed in the months leading up to the main event.

With Los Angeles throwing its hat into the ring to host the Olympics for the third time, it’s nice to know that the infrastructure already exists here to host successful events.  There are other contenders for that honor, of course, but whether it’s my hometown or Paris or Rome or some other place I’d like to visit, I hope each prospective host has learned the lessons of Rio de Janeiro and recognizes that putting up swimming pools isn’t the same as building a soccer pitch or basketball court.

Aquatic installations take time, and the participating athletes deserve better than what they encountered in Rio.

***

The amount of rain that has fallen on California so far this season has been beyond incredible.  To see reservoirs that were down to dangerously depleted levels now brimming over with precious water is a welcome sight, although our experience with the Oroville Dam amply demonstrates that it’s possible for there to be too much of a good thing.

Last fall, I was all set to install a 1,000-gallon cistern to collect water from our downspouts and a much-used outdoor shower for storage and reuse with our trees and garden plants.  I may still do it, but I have to say the sense of urgency has faded with my awareness that what we’ve experienced in the past couple months would have overtopped the tank after a few minutes.

But no matter:  While Mother Nature is indeed bounteous, I think we ask her to do too much on her own.  There’s some digging in my future after all!

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