Olympia

It’s been 5 years since the Olympia II opened. And since the original Olympia closed. We’ve also just seen the opening of the new building on the site of the old pool – the V&A Dundee. The place where the V&A is and the Olympia was, should by rights be underwater. If you were standing there and taken back in time 200 years you would need to be able to swim!

The original coastline bordered roughly where Dock Street is, along Yeaman Shore (hence the name) to the back of the buildings on Perth Road. The land was gradually built up over time to form the Harbour and allow bigger trade ships to arrive in Dundee. Slessor Gardens was once upon a time the Earl Grey Dock. The area was less used in the 20th century and plans were even drawn up in 1911 to fill the dock in and build a massive civic centre on the area. Alas it didn’t happen and the dock survived another 50 years until the Tay Road Bridge was built.

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The Tayside International Pool in  1974

Dundee’s first public swimming pool was built at the docks to replace the access that people used to have to the river. By the time the bridge was built in 1966 the old pool was becoming out-dated and too small to keep up with demand. So to fit in with the grand plan for the future new baths were needed.

A new swimming pool was first considered after the Scottish Amateur Swimming Association requested the council look in to it in March 1962. They agreed. It was decided to keep the new pool near the site of the old one. Architects were invited to submit plans. After considering some of the options the Baths Sub-committee did make some recommendations, including that there should be no underwater windows in the new pool. Sadly the rejected plans don’t survive but I’d really like to see the ones with an underwater viewing area – it would have been like watching penguins at the zoo! After much deliberation the plans submitted by James Parr & Partners were chosen in 1971 and work began soon after.

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The original layout of the pools

The pool was originally meant to be part of a larger leisure complex on the waterfront, including a cinema, theatre and conference facilities. In the end however only the swimming pool and Tayside house were built. Construction of the pool complex was delayed by national shortages and distribution problems with materials and manpower. The name of the new pool was yet to be decided. ‘The Baths’ was too old fashioned. Some suggested naming it after the ferries, ‘Abercraig Baths’ was mooted, but that was no good either. Someone suggested ‘Dundee International Pool’ which would have been abbreviated to the DIP. (A wasted opportunity if you ask me!) Instead the snappy title of the ‘Dundee Swimming and Leisure Centre’ was chosen, with the pool itself being called the Tayside International Pool (although no one seems to have noticed that TIP is much worse than DIP).

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The brochure for the opening of the Dundee Swimming and Leisure Centre in 1974

The new pool was opened on 15th July 1974, with the Lord Provost officially opening it on 16th October 1974. It was agreed that entrance fees would be set at 15p for adults and 10p for children. If you forgot your towel – no need to worry! A towel could be hired for 5p plus a deposit of 25p. A tapestry designed by Miss Hann and Mrs Taylor from the Dundee College of Art and the Scottish Craft Centre went on display in the foyer. The grounds were decorated with plants supplied by the Parks Department.

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A leaflet from the re-opening of the Dundee Leisure Centre as the Olympia in 1990, featuring the names of the slides

One of the key features of the pool that were the slides. These were added in 1987. Which was your favourite? There was the small red one (for the wee ones), the blue and green ones and not forgetting the yellow cannonball. As far I was always aware just the cannonball had a name, but we learn from the 1990 leaflet that they were called the Red Rocket, the Green Glider and the Blue Bomber.

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Plans of the Olympia from 1994

The name Olympia was not used until 1990 when the pool was refurbished. This was to fit in with the new mural of Hermes and Neptune in the stormy River Tay. By the dawn of the 21st century the Olympia’s days were numbered. A small upgrade was completed in 2004 to keep it going until a new facility could be opened. The Olympia was closed in July 2013 when the new pool was completed. It was demolished the following year. Take a look at some pictures of the facility before it was demolished.

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