By Denzel Nyathi
Celebrations and ululation were the order of the day on Friday, 5 August 2022, as Rhodes University Sports Administration cut the purple ribbon to officially re-open the swimming pool outside Bantu Steve Biko Union Building. As the last of the winter sun was shining against the clear blue waters and the purple and white balloons that lined the poolside, there was much cause for cheer. The project of revamping the pool started before the April 2022 graduation.
Sports Administration Manager, Frans Mamabolo said it was a long and satisfying process to get the pool reopened. “There were a lot of factors that contributed to the long wait, and the biggest issue we had was the funds and the environmental issues. We are talking of a drought, and this is a million litres of water that we needed to put in the pool. So, we had to wait until the conditions have improved,” said Mamabolo.
Mamabolo said the pool was opened earlier than previously anticipated because of appetite from Rhodes University sports clubs and students. “The pool was set to be opened in September 2022, just in time for the warmer days of spring. However, when we saw the interest of our students, the project was accelerated to allow the athletes to start practising as soon as possible,” he explained.
Chairperson of the Water polo Club, Abigail van der Howen, said she was excited that the pool was finally opened after having had to arrange the usage of pools in schools around Rhodes University. “The opening of the pool makes for easier and hustle-free practice; we will be able to prepare for next year’s University Sports South Africa games,” she said.
Chairperson of Rhodes University Sports Council and Director in the Office of the Vice-Chancellor, Susan Smailes, said: “I know that our students are saying there aren’t places for recreation, and this is an absolutely beautiful place in the heart of our university for students to chill and have fun. It’s also amazing for our sports club, like the water polo club and swimming. But also Learn to Swim! Our Learn to Swim programs are very important.”
The Learn to Swim program is an extension of the mandatory community engagement of each of the sporting clubs. For the aquatic sports, the program allows the athletes to give back by teaching others who would like to learn how to swim an opportunity. In clubs such as Canoeing, members can join and partake only socially, allowing them to learn how to swim in a non-competitive space. With the pool having opened, this becomes all the more possible for more students.