Friday, April 01, 2011

Going Swimmingly: Mallorca's pools

What is it with swimming-pools? Not swimming-pools and the mercifully only occasional outbreak of cryptosporidium or swimming-pools of all-inclusives and the legends that are the stories of defecatory deposits which are left in them. No, not these, but swimming-pools of the local authority variety.

The Rebecca Adlington gold award, were there such a thing, would long ago have been claimed by Puerto Pollensa's indoor pool for its services to public amusement. See that roof. It's on the wrong way round. Well, it isn't now, but it once was. A splendidly pre-fabricated upside down cake. How about someone paying the electricity bill? Not we, said the pool's operators, Algaillasport. Endesa were none too amused. Not that we should really care what Endesa think, but when they're owed 20 grand or so, we know what they are going to think. Finally, an agreement was brokered with the town hall, and the pool did not close once more, as it has been prone to since it first opened.

Joining Puerto Pollensa on the winner's rostrum and clutching its own medal, we now have Alcúdia's swimming-pool. For five years since it opened, relationships between the operator, Gesport Balear, and the town hall haven't always gone swimmingly. Now, they've got a bad case of cramp in the deep end and are foundering. And why? It'll be electricity again, or the cost of heating the pool to be more accurate. We're switching off the boiler, say Gesport, unless we get some 300 grand. The town hall isn't prepared to play water polo and has taken its ball home. No heating, no swimming, unless you're mad.

Oh that the two northern rival towns were isolated examples of the curious swimming-pool management art of Mallorca, but they are not. Santa Margalida, just down the bay from Alcúdia, has been doing its best to claim the gold medal. Keeping itself closed for a couple of years and then still managing to leak itself. Not to be outdone, Inca came roaring along in the final stretch with its over-budget of 600,000 euros, a vigorous butterfly of profligacy to beat off the more sedate breaststroke of Alcúdia's lost thousands.

When the plunge was taken to improve the island's health and build proper swimming-pools in various of Mallorca's municipalities, there would appear to have been less than sufficient attention paid to how they would actually operate. All very good it may be in theory, but the idea of contracting-out has hardly been a great success; indeed it has been about as unsuccessful as some of the actual building.

And how successful have the pools been in terms of their usage? Doubtless, there are statistics to prove that they have been, as there always are statistics, but they've tried hard for them to not be. Alcúdia again ...

Not long after it opened, a local British woman, who speaks perfectly serviceable Spanish, went along to the pool and asked for a list of services and prices. It was in Catalan. Did they not have a list in Castilian? She received short shrift for having the temerity to suggest that they might. How long had she been living here and why couldn't she speak Catalan? Yep, you can use the swimming-pool, so long as you pass a language test.

I once suggested to the pool's director that they could do with letting more people know of its existence. Publicity perhaps. For tourists maybe. I think I was speaking a different language. It was Spanish admittedly. But then when there is publicity, it is of a singularly strange variety. When Puerto Pollensa's pool announced its re-opening, now that the roof was as a roof should be, i.e. the right way round, there was a poster of splashy-happy kiddies. Nothing wrong in attracting children to the pool, but as it was a summery outdoor scene and the indoor pool was re-opening in March, the message didn't quite fit. Nor did it with the fact that the municipal pools are, oddly enough, meant for swimming and not cavorting around on giant rubber ducks.

No, if you want fun in water, you can go in the sea or to a waterpark. Leave the municipal pools to the geriatric speedo set with their goggles and their morning's twenty lengths. Yes, you can have fun at a waterpark, so long as you don't try and take your own water in, to one particular waterpark at any rate. Enjoy being searched and having your bottle taken off you. I pointed out to the waterpark's director that the internet was incandescent with rage at the practice, as indeed were real-life tourists in the vicinity. Has it stopped? Will it have stopped this summer? It damn well should have.

Swimming and Mallorca should be somehow synonymous, but they are not because ways are found to prevent this being so. Best perhaps to forget the pools and just head to the sea. But then there are always the jellyfish. Still, no one has to worry about switching the boiler on or getting the roof on the right way.

Any comments to please.

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