The Pool Where Cuban Olympic Swimmers Trained Is Now a Garbage Dump

The president of the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power argued that local authorities can do little because the property is in the hands of Emprestur. (Ahora!)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 27 July 2023 — The Olympic pool in Gibara, Holguín, has long since left its golden years behind as a training center for Cuban athletes who competed in international events. The lack of maintenance and the passage of two hurricanes have left the facilities in such a state that even the official press echoes it. Today the place is a “macro garbage dump,” in the words of the provincial newspaper Ahora! in a report published this Tuesday.

The text describes the “stumbling blocks” that, for more than 50 years, have affected the Waldimiro Arcos Riera pool, inaugurated in the late 1970s. Located in the vicinity of the Holguin coast, initially it only had stakes embedded in the sea that formed a quadrilateral. These precarious conditions did not prevent Cuban athletes from training and obtaining good results in international events.

According to the newspaper, it was not until 1979 that the facility gained its “Olympic” status, after the local residents themselves carried out “volunteer work” to build the pool. Gibara was already in the middle of a drinking water supply crisis, so the pool remained empty.

Andrés Ricardo Rivas, president of the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power, argued that the local authorities can do little because the property is in the hands of Emprestur, which is dedicated to the construction of tourism facilities, and they will be in charge of rehabilitating the facilities. He did not say why there is no communication with the state company nor what plans it has to reactivate the swimming center.

Among the professional swimmers who have trained in the pool are Rafael Leyva, national and Central American champion with the butterfly and free-style technique; Oscar Periche Cardet, goalkeeper of the Cuban national water polo team for more than 20 years and participant in four Olympics; and Juan José Soler González, national swimming runner-up.

In 2008, Hurricane Ike considerably damaged the facilities, but the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) financed its repair using materials with greater resistance to salt water and a pumping system directly from the sea.

In addition to recovering its initial function of sports training, the investment provided for the creation of conditions for the pool to be used by people with disabilities and by children. A significant part of the investment was allocated to lighting the pool, so that it could also be used at night.

The complex was again destroyed in 2017, when Hurricane Irma, category 5, devastated much of the Holguin coast. Since then, the authorities have done nothing more for the pool, and it ended up becoming a garbage dump that, the newspaper acknowledges, “affects the environment and the neighbors.”

Translated by Regina Anavy


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