x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Dubai swimming resources pooled to 'wow'

The Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Sports Complex ought to simply be known as "The Wow".

The Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Sports Complex hosted the Short Course World Championships in December.
The Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Sports Complex hosted the Short Course World Championships in December.

The Dubai venue that will host this weekend's competition is a vision of tranquillity and technological achievement

Here at the indoor impressionist painting on the edge of Dubai, more bustle beckons.

It is time for another gawk at the Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Sports Complex, which, if it had a slang name as do many sporting venues, ought to go by simply The Wow.

Roam the Earth viewing stadiums, coliseums, arenas and complexes, and every so often one will ship the jaw southbound, as did this one last December for the Fina Short Course World Swimming Championships.

"To be honest, I can't tell you any bad on this," the 19-year-old South African butterfly champion Chad Le Clos said yesterday poolside while, to a novice, The Wow still resembles some sort of blue, blue dream.

Elias Gregoriou, the operational manager, and Kyriakos Giannopoulos, the managing director, yesterday kindly gave tours and pointed out now-familiar accoutrements.

Those "booms," for starters. Those are some seriously cool "booms." Now, only hyper-chlorinated sorts could know that word, but "booms" are the narrow walkways between two pools, at least until they descend electronically and disappear in Dubai, whereupon they're still "booms," except under water. In both the main and training pools, they submerge or rise so that organisers can create a 50-metre pool or two 25-metre pools.

"We are flexible," Gregoriou said. "We can do this in 10 minutes. We can change one swimming pool to two swimming pools."

That floor in the training pool? It reposed three metres deep yesterday. For diving, it would descend to five meters. "If I want to have a baby swimming, I can lift the floor up and have a level of 1.2 [metres]," Gregoriou said.

Let the baby competition begin; just beware, you know, the parents.

When they drain the water, Gregoriou explained, they do not dispose of it; they just put it in tanks in the energy centre beside the building and continue treating it with the treatment competitive-swimming water huffily mandates. Then they bring it back over, a part of their overall, solar-heavy consciousness.

It even has considerations and gadgetry and whatnot that allows for - get this - less turbulence in the water. One hates to enter a pool and find turbulence.

It's like some futuristic present around here, and then the swimmers arrive, as they will tomorrow, for the first leg of the seven-stop Fina/Arena Swimming World Cup. Le Clos said he especially likes all the space.

At the World Championships last December, he said, he found space for all the national groups to sit comfortably in clusters, space in that tense waiting room where swimmers meditate before mayhem and space, especially, in the size of the arena overall. "It's a huge stadium," he said. "Everybody wants to race in front of a big crowd. And I compare it to soccer games, and I like soccer." He finds Hamdan a swimming "Old Trafford" - minus, of course, Sir Alex Ferguson.

An ultimate compliment came from a Chinese team manager - "He said, 'This venue, it's better than our venue in Beijing'" - and went into the ears of Giannopoulos, who brings quite the in-and-out-of-pool background to his post.

Before managing a horde of venues in Athens including the Olympic Stadium, Giannopoulos became one of those rare humans to have appeared in four Olympics, in his case Moscow, Los Angeles, Seoul and Barcelona, as a member of the Greek water polo team.

A denizen of blue water, he knows its mysteries and vagaries and how some of it seems thicker than other of it.

"When I swim here," he said, "I feel better. Believe me. I feel like to be in the air."

And that's because …

"I don't know. Really I don't know. I never explain this. But some pools are very fast, some pools are not very fast. This is my experience."

Maybe …

"Maybe it's because it looks to the sea," he said, pointing outward to the distant yonder.

"Maybe the energy, it helps the swimmers."

He said even swimmers' parents have asked to swim in the luscious water, which does paint quite a picture, while Le Clos said: "I definitely like the depth."

So here come the swimmers again, from the edges to the middle of the world to The Wow, as the preparations mount and Giannopoulos reports his Tuesday work ended at 2.45am, which still does not approach his lifetime record, during the AC Milan-Liverpool Champions League final of 2007 in Athens, of not sleeping from a Sunday until the second-following Monday.

The place looks wow, the water looks flawless. Fina requires a water temperature between 26.7°C and 27.2°C, Giannopoulos said, "And now we have 26.9. In two hours, we'll catch 27," here in a haven of precision.


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