Our Olympic diving hopes are threatened

PUBLISHED: 17:48 03 September 2008 | UPDATED: 11:22 12 August 2010

AN OLYMPICS diving coach has accused a government organisation of jeopardising Britain s chances of medals in the London 2012 Games.

AN OLYMPICS diving coach has accused a government organisation of jeopardising Britain's chances of medals in the London 2012 Games.

Crystal Palace diving club, which is currently nurturing 20 potential Olympic champions for 2012, is threatened with closure because it can't afford to pay its rent at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre (CPNSC).

The London Development Agency (LDA) manages the CPNSC, where work to remove asbestos in the Olympian sized pool has been delayed until Christmas, so the divers have nowhere to train and the club has no revenue.

Director of diving, Chris Snode, said: "Without doubt LDA are threatening our chances of getting medals in 2012. The Olympics are never going to come to London again in our lifetime. This is such an opportunity.

"We asked the LDA if they would give us free rent until the pool is fixed but they refused. We have been tenants there for 23 years. The asbestos is their problem. We are losing revenue and we have been told to pay £42,000 for the last ten months.

"They chose to write to us on August 8, the opening day of the Beijing Olympics to tell us that. It's incredible. They threatened to lock us out and take away all our specialist equipment."

The young divers marched to City Hall on Tuesday with letters about what their diving meant to them and refused to leave until Mayor Boris Johnson assured them he would look in to helping the club.

Mr Johnson's private secretary came down and took their letters from them and gave them one in response saying the Mayor would investigate.

Mr Snode and his team, including former Olympic champion and head coach Cheng Yang and his assistant Xiang Yan Kong, personally selected 20 youngsters from 50,000 to train on the fast track 2012 diving programme.

The club is the only one outside of China to use a wholly Chinese diving teaching method.

Mr Snode said: "The Chinese are far and away the best nation at diving. They picked up seven golds in Beijing. It has taken years for us to secure these coaches. They don't know how dire the situation really is because we don't want to lose them.

"They will win us medals. But every day the pool is closed is eating in to our chances of getting them.

"It's extremely worrying. At the moment we are going from day to day. But if I have a choice between paying the coaches and paying the rent then that's an easy one to make because without them, what's the point?"

A spokesman for the LDA said: "LDA is spending almost £12 million on essential refurbishments to the National Sports Centre including the removal of dangerous asbestos and the replacement of pumps and equipment which were on the verge of collapse.

"Sports Workshop Limited, Mr Snode's private company, has built up significant rent arrears on office and sports facilities.

"These arrears began before the temporary closure of the pool, during which time the LDA has provided Sports Workshop Limited alternative accommodation on 5-a-side pitches at a much-reduced rate.

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