Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Standard Makes a Splash in [Pounds Sterling]269m Olympic Pool; EXCLUSIVE Today the Aquatics Centre Is Declared Open. with a Year until the 2012 Games Begin, Jasmine Gardner Is the First to Take the Plunge

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Standard Makes a Splash in [Pounds Sterling]269m Olympic Pool; EXCLUSIVE Today the Aquatics Centre Is Declared Open. with a Year until the 2012 Games Begin, Jasmine Gardner Is the First to Take the Plunge

Article excerpt

Byline: Jasmine Gardner

Evening Standard'.LYMPICS COUNTDOWN 366 days to go IT IS a swimming pool like no other, its swooping [pounds sterling]269 million design providing the unmistakeable "wow factor" of the London Olympics. And I am the first to dive in.

It's cold, really cold. It's deep. It's 50 metres to the other end and I'm all alone. But I'm in no rush to get out.

As I head up the middle lane, the water is clear and the only ripples on the surface have been made by me. You wouldn't get this kind of luxury at your local swimming baths.

I'm swimming in waters where gold medals will be won -- and although I know I have no chance of one myself, it doesn't stop the adrenaline pumping.

Today the aquatics centre is declared open, the last of the six permanent venues to be completed exactly a year until the 2012 Games begin.

It has been dogged by controversy, with costs more than trebling from the [pounds sterling]75 million estimate as builders struggled to turn Zaha Hadid's radical "stingray" design into reality.

But its completion is being met with delight by those behind its construction, who are only too well aware of the troubled history of major projects from Wembley to the Millennium Dome.

Work began in June 2008, involving 3,630 people. It follows the completion of the main stadium, velodrome, handball arena, basketball arena and international broadcast centre.

John Armitt, chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority, said: "The completion of the aquatics centre is the latest chapter in a British success story where tens of thousands of workers and businesses from across the UK have demonstrated the ability of this country to deliver major projects successfully."

There are three pools in the aquatics centre -- one each for training, competition and diving. Two "wedges" have been added to the central structure to provide 17,500 seats. This will be reduced to 2,500 after the Games.

The over-riding sensation, as I struggle to complete a length, is of being dwarfed by the vastness. As someone accustomed to a 20m health club pool, 50m feels a long way. Thank goodness the underwater cameras and viewing windows are not yet in use.

Later tonight ex-Olympians, including Mark Foster and Duncan Goodhew, will race up the lanes and Tom Daley will plunge from the 10m platform in the diving pool. Until now, the only people to enter the water have been lifeguards making safety checks and scuba divers fitting cables during construction. Before me no one has swum a length.

All three pools are fitted with floating floors. The depth can be adjusted at the switch of a button so that after the Games the pools can be used for lessons.

As the floor is raised or lowered the water seeps through the grates. …

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