North Sydney Olympic Pool

Sydney, Australia | C.1936

Photo Credit: @a_t_murphy

In April of 1936, the North Sydney Council acquired a prime site upon which they built a modern facility hailed as “the wonder pool of Australasia” due to its sophisticated aesthetic and state-of-the-art filtering system. Built largely in the Functionalist style, which emphasizes symmetry, and hints of art deco, the Olympic Pool was filled with treated seawater, pumped in from the harbor.

At its opening, North Sydney Alderman C. C. Faulkner exalted the accomplishment: “Imagine the most perfect sapphire in the world—colossal in dimensions, blue, with a radiance that dazzles yet soothes; that is what the water in the Olympic pool is like.”

With its dazzling water and ideal location beside the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Luna Park, the pool was twice the venue for the British Empire Games, as well as many national championships. It has remained in continuous operation since its illustrious opening—during which time eighty-six world records have been established in its waters.

But after eighty-four years of operation, the North Sydney Olympic Pool is in need of a costly overhaul—a reality that has severely disturbed locals. “Our swimming spots are under threat,” wrote one impassioned journalist, contending that minimizing funds for pools cuts to the core of what it is to be Australian. Residents have asserted that swimming is ingrained in their beings, and that these fluid sanctuaries serve as precious landmarks of inspiration and invention, such as the Australian crawl, also known as the freestyle stroke.

There is some debate surrounding that claim. But down under, local Dick Cavill is credited with developing the technique. Regardless, one thing is not up for debate, and has been made clear by the North Sydney Olympic’s challenges: Aussies are very, very serious about their pool parties.

📖 Featured on Page 333 of AWA, The Book 📖

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