Following the last full council meeting where councillors turned down local campaigners offer to run the Leith Waterworld at a greatly reduced subsidy, those on the Culture and Leisure committee are to consider an interesting report next Tuesday.
Councillors are being asked to approve an £80,000 contribution towards staging a three day diving competition in the Commonwealth Pool.
The report enthusiastically explains:
“The FINA World Diving Series is one of the world’s most prestigious diving competitions, and is owned by FINA, the world governing body for aquatics.
“Every year around 100 of the world’s top divers compete at four different locations around the world. In 2012 the competition was held in Dubai, Beijing, Moscow, and Tijuana. Some of the world’s top diving nations take part; competing countries include Great Britain, China, Mexico, Qatar, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates.”
It then goes on to add that the event offers a tremendous opportunity to, er, show off:
“Hosting the event at the Royal Commonwealth Pool will give a boost to the performance diving programme there, and help raise the venue’s national and international profile as a centre of excellence for diving, and as a top class venue for aquatics events.
“The event will attract international media coverage, which will showcase Edinburgh’s newly-refurbished aquatics venue on the world stage. The only other British city to have hosted this competition is Sheffield, most recently in 2011.”
You must remember Sheffield 2011?
It’s worth doing the maths. Splashback campaigners reckoned that they could run Leith Waterworld on a subsidy of around £250,000 pa. That £80,000 that councillors will probably approve without dissent next Tuesday for a three day elite diving competition could have kept Leith Waterworld going to members of the public for four whole months.
But of course this would not be the first time that the council has apparently favoured elite sports venues over the less glamerous leisure venues.
So far in the debate on whether the council can afford Leith Waterworld, it may seem remarkable that no-one has mentioned the public subsidy afforded to another elite sports venue – the Edinburgh International Climbing Centre at Ratho.
Perhaps everyone is too polite to mention it, but Leith Waterworld, when it was operational was not the Edinburgh Leisure faciltiy that received the most public subsidy.
Two other facilities received more subsidy per user, and the EICC also required a far greater total public subsidy as the graphs below illustrate.
The figures in these graphs were taken from this Edinburgh Leisure report, and sadly they’re the most up to date ones we have.
Nevertheless, it must surely be fair to ask why, if Leith Waterworld is so unaffordable, that venues such as a the EICC and the Braids Hill golf course clearly remain affordable to this day? Particularly as far larger savings could be made if the EICC was closed instead!
And whilst councillors now seem to expect Leithers to come up with £1.5m to fill a funding gap left by the Commonwealth Pool refurbishment programme as the price of re-opening Leith Waterworld – the same committee meeting which will probably agree to spend £80,000 on that 3 day diving competition are also likely to agree to make a £600,000 capital investment in establishing an art gallery in the Royal Observatory building – also in the south of the city.
Other notable expenses that the City of Edinburgh council have incurred since Leith Waterworld closed include the £94,000 councillors agreed to spend on providing free on street parking in Edinburgh city centre during the evening for the summer and winter festival periods. A measure guaranteed to do little for anyone’s health or wellbeing.
And of course more recently there has been a wee bit of a stooshie after the council spent a rumoured £300,000 on developing the Incredinburgh marketing campaign – only to bin it just before launch.
Splashback campaigners working to re-open the pool are to be given a second chance to revise their business plan and present it to councillors before the site is readvertised on the open market.
It remains to be seen whether councillors will decide that any revised bid is acceptable. But In the meantime, we hope that Edinburgh Leisure will offer the Splashback volunteers free tickets to the diving competition.
They surely deserve to get some recognition for all the fundraising they’re going to need to do to pay off that Commonwealth pool debt.