Time for one last splash as Hong Kong bids farewell to Victoria Park pool

City says goodbye to much-loved pool and all its memories as public facility closes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 September, 2013, 9:08am

Athletes and leisure swimmers swam their last laps at Victoria Park yesterday as the city's oldest public pool closed for good.

Many came with childhood memories of learning to swim at the pool, challenging their mates to dive to the bottom of the five-metre deep end, and almost hitting their heads on the bottom when diving at the shallow end.

The 56-year-old pool will be replaced by a new swimming pool complex built next door, which will open on September 16.

The old pool will offer free entry from 9am to 9pm today and tomorrow for the public to take pictures and reminisce.

The facility was built to the international standards of the 1950s, and housed important competitions such as the Chinese Amateur Swimming Association championships. Many Hong Kong Island schools held their swimming galas there.

Hong Kong's top swimmers of that generation also used to train at the pool. Among them was Ban Leung Wing-wah, former chief coach at the South China Athletic Association, who visited with his son to take photos yesterday.

Both father and son broke records in the pool, and both swam in the Hong Kong team, one in the late 1970s and the other in the early 2000s. "It's a place full of tears, joy and glory in the good old times," said Leung. But he added that it was time for the "danger-filled" old pool to go.

The shallow side of the pool had strong jets, which sometimes washed non-swimmers into deeper water. The diving platforms were very slippery, and he had seen many slip and fall.

He suspected the pool leaked, causing the shallow end to be shallower than it should be. Swimmers could easily hit their heads on the bottom during training and competitions.

However, his son, Hubert Leung Chor-pat, 27, said he was sad to see the pool close. "It was where we showed off our training efforts, where I had a lot of fun with my teammates. There is no other place with collective memories like this," he said.

Though the five-metre deep end for diving posed a hazard to non-swimmers, some appreciated the design.

"I like how it goes from shallow to deep. Most pools are shallow on both ends and people stand there blocking the way," said Danny Lee Wing-nam, 54, who swims every day after work. "It's sad that the pool will be gone."

After demolishing the old pool, a handball court and skating rinks will be built on the site.