There are few sports where you can take part in the same venue as the professional sports people.
You can’t book Celtic Park for a game of football, nor Murrayfield for rugby. You can’t play cricket at the Oval or tennis at Wimbledon. You can run a marathon or cycle a sportive on the same roads as Mo Farah or Chris Froome but those roads are not a venue, they’re a street. I’m talking purpose built sports venues – not a venue you can share with a bus, the bin lorry and an ice cream van.
Yet, when sports venues are built, many talk about sustainability and community involvement. A legacy.
For Glasgow that means we have a velodrome and Tollcross swimming pool as venues built for the Commonwealth Games and open to the public after the games ended.
I say open but, despite having two 50 metre pools (the only 50 metre pools in Glasgow), one remains permanently split into two 25 metre pools and the other only opens as a 50 metre pool when the moon is ascending in the ninth circle of the eastern cosmos and Jupitar is in alignment with Uranus. Or something close to that. It’s timetable has been so erratic over the last few years that you just turn up and hope. Even when it’s scheduled to open you can still find the staff saying “not today”. And that’s if the pool is even open. It’s been closed for repairs almost as many times as Donald Trump has sent a dodgy tweet. The only legacy the Commonwealth Games left Glasgow was regular work for builders.
The Velodrome on the other hand is fantastic. If you can get an introductory session booked. A process that involves getting up a 5am in the morning to try and a book a session one month ahead so that you beat those people who set their alarm clock for 6am to beat the people who set their alarm clock for 7am to be the first to book.
It’s popular. Very popular. And I think they’ve added more classes to address a booking system that favour insomniac cyclists so everything may be okay now. If not, good luck, and remember to set that alarm clock early!
In London there are two similar venues. In the Queen Elizabeth Olympics park you can now ride on the London Velodrome or swim in the Olympic swimming pool.
I was in London at the weekend and dropped in on Saturday night to try it out.
A few things you should know:
1. It’s in the middle of nowhere. Or Stretford as it’s now called.
2. You have to walk through a shopping centre to get there. Westfield.
3. It’s in the middle of the park, behind a building site and a large well lit path between construction sites far , far away from busy roads or other people that means London’s legacy is to provide better lighting to see your mugger.
4. It’s almost empty!
5. Which means ignore 1 to 3! It’s brilliant!
6. There’s two pools. One a 50 metre which is actually open and you can, at least at 6pm on a Saturday night, get a whole lane to yourself.
I’d not swam since November so the only Olympian I resembled was Eric the Eel, it was cool to swim in the same venue as Michael Phelps and to know that we had shared the same water. Which was also cool until I remember he didn’t like to get out of the pool before going to the toilet…
I’d definitely recommend a trip to the pool if you’re in London and, even if you forget something, don’t worry, you can pick up everything you need from a…. vending machine. This one, filled with trunks and goggles.