Claire Carver Dias knows first-hand what the upcoming $20-million renovations to the Etobicoke Olympium – slated to begin this summer in advance of the 2015 Pan Am Games – will mean for the local swimmers and divers who regularly train at the landmark facility in Centennial Park.
A former Team Canada synchronized swimmer, Carver Dias won double golds at the 1999 Pan Am Games in Winnipeg and Olympic bronze at the 2000 Games in Sydney – and she credits the 12,000 hours she logged training at the Olympium under famed coach Sheilagh Croxon for her success.
“On this pool deck, I likely did 10,000 or more sit ups, spent endless minutes in split positions, pored over my goal book, reviewed my focuses with my coach and team, and exchanged numerous high fives at the end of triumphant training sessions,” Carver Dias recalled Wednesday.
“This place is where the national synchro team in 1998 articulated our dream of achieving a medal performance at the 1999 Pan Am Games, the 2000 Olympic Games and beyond. This is where we sweated, leaned over the edge of the gutter out of breath, dreamed, cried, screamed, shook with nerves, leapt for joy.”
After retiring in 2002, Carver Dias was happy to have occasion to once more leap for joy on the deck of the Olympium’s Olympic-sized pool Wednesday morning, as she helped announce the joint federal-municipal funding of $20 million in renovations to the Olympium in preparation for the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games.
She was joined in those sentiments by up-and-coming synchro swimmer Claire McGovern, Pan Am Games CEO Ian Troop, Minister of State for Sport Bal Gosal, Ontario Minister Responsible for the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games Michael Chan, Etobicoke Centre MP and MPP Ted Opitz and Donna Cansfield, respectively, and Mayor Rob Ford.
“In less than three years, the Greater Toronto Area will welcome athletes from across the Americas and the Caribbean for one of the largest multi-sport events in Canadian history and I’m so pleased that Etobicoke Olympium will play an exciting role in helping host this event,” said Gosal.
The Olympium – a 159,339 square foot multi-sport facility that includes an Olympic-sized pool, lesson/training pool, four dive towers, two springboards, a gymnasium and a fitness centre – is slated to act as training space for hundreds of aquatic athletes competing in swimming, water polo, diving and synchronized swimming during the Games in July 2015.
Planned renovations and upgrades to the Olympium, which will see the facility closed from July 1, 2013 until July 1, 2014, will include the installation of a state-of-the-art Myrtha Pools system, an upgrade to the existing dive towers to meet current Federation International de Natation (FINA) standards, the replacement of the pool filtration system and the current timing and scoring booth, a new fire alarm system, as well as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning improvements. A new roof and a new entry “filled with natural light” will also be added to the building.
In announcing its imminent rejuvenation, Troop lauded the Olympium for its “rich athletic and community history,” since being built here in 1975 ahead of the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games.
“The Olympium is a testament to the powerful legacy a sports facility can create when it’s embraced in the community and made relevant to their daily lives,” Troop said, commmenting on the important balance the facility has struck between competitive and leisure use. “This has been the home for swimming in the GTA for almost 40 years. This facility has produced seven world records, has hosted scores of national and international swimming championships, and has nurtured the growth of more than 30 young local swimmers who went on to become Olympians.”
Those Olympians include Brittany and Heather MacLean, Owen Von Richter, Tobias Oriwol, Alexa Komarnycky, Allison Higson and Amanda Reason, among many others.
While the yearlong construction period will see many of those young competitive swimmers, as well as countless other local residents who use the Olympium’s facilities throughout the year, displaced from July 2013 to July 2014, Ford said the sacrifice will be well worth it.
“We realize that the forthcoming construction will cause some disruptions to the residents that use the Olympium year after year,” he said, taking the opportunity to thank local swim groups and individuals for working patiently with city staff to find alternative arrangements during construction.
“While there may be some short inconveniences in the matter of a time period, the investment and long-term upgrades will mean that Canadian members, residents and athletes will have access to a world-class facility as the result of the TO2015 Games. Upon completion, the improvements to the Etobicoke Olympium will be a lasting legacy.”
Carver Dias agreed: “The Olympium is the place where dozens of high performance aquatic athletes were shaped and trained and I’m thrilled that its impressive legacy will live on. Thanks to the 2015 Pan Am Games, this facility – an incubator of dreams – this place will be given new life and will therefore house more Olympic, Paralympic, Pan Am, and Parapan Am dreams in the future.”