raffia bags “shield” against plaster

David Popovici’s performance boosted his interest in swimming, but in a country with few swimming pools and precarious conditions. In Braila, the swimming base of the LPS, where the great champs Camellia Boutik, Diana Mocano and Beatrice Callaro grew up, has remained almost unchanged. As at the opening in the early seventies, it has even deteriorated, while the construction of the Olympic pool, which began in 2011, is still prohibited.

49 years later, a Romanian kid broke patterns and won the 100 and 200 meters freestyle, at the same edition of the World Championships. David Popovici, 17, who came so close to a medal last year at the Olympics (4th place in the 200m freestyle) has already become a planetary phenomenon.

The “Romania torpedo” has brought attention to Romanian swimming, a sport that, like many others in our country, is struggling due to a lack of infrastructure and unstable conditions for performance.


How much would you go to see David Popovici in Otopeni?

An example is the swimming complex in Braila, one of the cradles of Roman swimming, the city that gave the world swimming for the great champions Diana Mocano, Camelia Boutique and Beatrice Callaro. The base froze over time. For more than 50 years, since it was put into service, LPS complexes have remained almost unchanged, and have been subjected to constant damage.

A team from Gazeta Sportulor visited them recently and it was the feeling of going back, from a present that seems more and more bleak, even if the kids here continue to swim, dream and hope.

The outdoor pool is 50 meters high, 8 colors and opened in 1973. It was always managed by LPS, but there were also periods when it was not used, until 2017-2018, due to costs. It works now, though.

The water is clear, but at the bottom of the pond you can see all kinds of colors of sandstone, a sign of some rags here and there over time. On a metal frame, the tarpaulin, almost transparent, burnt out by the sun and time, is the only “new” in the landscape. Otherwise, old bathrooms and terraces as well as small and poor dressing rooms.

“They changed some pipes from the water replacement system in 2000, after Diana’s performance. Otherwise nothing,” People from the swimming world say in Braila. A few kids from handball lessons, some with laps, were scattering under the teachers’ eyes.

In addition to the approximately 200 high school children who swim here, the athletes from CSM Brăila also train at LPS. The first to appear in the pool, with a group of children aged 8-10, was Diana Mukano, who amazed the swimming world more than 20 years ago, just as David Popovici does now.

David Popovici champion country without swimming pools!  The astonishing story of the base where Botique, Mokano or Calaro grew up »Images of extreme indifference: raffia bags are

Diana won two gold and 100 meters medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, as well as a world title and a silver medal in Fukuoka a year later. The real reasons for his withdrawal from the sport, once the glory was known, are still hidden in a veil of mystery. Diana trains, but she shuts herself down and categorically refuses any dialogue with the press, even on the topic of phenomena David Popovici.

Later, older athletes, ages 12-18, appeared in the pool, coached by Caitlin Nestor, former bank colleague with Camellia Boutik, multiple national champion, Balkan vice champion, sixth place at the 1998 World Championships, in swimming Chest or mixed events. There are no conditions, but they work, the children, some of whom have already obtained results in the elderly, take their pools very seriously, even if Nestor is eager to throw another joke, to calm the atmosphere. Some of them are the same age as David, and I know him, they watched the finals in Budapest with all their hearts. It’s the main topic in their locker room or in their WhatsApp group. Model, all the more reason to shoot more aggressively.

Next to the outdoor pool there is an en suite bathroom. At the entrance, Diana Mucano and Camelia Botek smile happily at the pictures. It came into use in 1971, it was under the Ministry of Sports until 2018, and since then it has been transferred to the management of LPS Brăila. Now it is empty, works only during the cold season. The tiles covering the pool, as well as the tiles around it, are old, half a century ago.

Only the tiles on the walls were changed, the dressing rooms were reconstructed, double-glazed windows were installed. The gym is also small and crowded with old equipment. The only new one is a simulator brought by coach Cătălin Nistor, which he managed to get after a partnership. The pool, which is 23 meters long and 19 meters wide, looks like the remains of Antipas, a dinosaur from the swimming spaces.

When you look up, you understand more. Across the room, from one end to the other, The “ceiling” is made of raffia nets, which prevent the fall of the old plaster placed over a few metres. From place to place, the raffia is compacted with separate stucco pieces due to deterioration. The sink aeration system hadn’t been running in years, and chlorine fumes had constantly weakened the original roof and corroded the metal pipes from which rust flowed.

David Popovici champion country without swimming pools!  The astonishing story of the base where Botique, Mokano or Calaro grew up »Images of extreme indifference: raffia bags are

“It’s been like this for more than 10 years. They put raffia so that pieces of the ceiling do not fall on children’s heads. During the summer holidays we remove them, remove the fallen pieces and put them back again, so that they do not gain too much weight and break. This complex deserves a repair Big, an investment, but God knows when to do it. Water travels from the indoor pool to the outdoor pool and vice versa depending on the season.

But the water change system works, too, changing about 10 percent of the volume daily. Chlorination of water also works, analyzes are carried out twice a day for water quality. This is still working. The biggest problem is that there are very high maintenance costs, especially in the winter, with the water that needs to be heated, with the gases to heat the other outbuildings of the pool,” according to the same sources.

Everyone is waiting for the completion of the nearby Olympic swimming pool: “Do you know what it looks like? We look forward to releasing it from year to year. I open it on Brila days, or in Saint Nicholas, when there are other days in town. From Saint Mary to Saint Nicholas and so on, until the saint waits. Now, a year ago, since the business stopped again, they terminated the contract with the builder, they did not even put it in custody, for its maintenance. And some things there are already starting to deteriorate.”

Although CNI has already spent almost 7 million eurosWith a construction company declared bankrupt and his contract terminated last year, the large complex in Braila, which everyone has been waiting for, is still far from complete.

David Popovici champion country without swimming pools!  The astonishing story of the base where Botique, Mokano or Calaro grew up »Images of extreme indifference: raffia bags are

In 2011, the construction of the Olympic Brăila Basin was approved, a CNI project identical to the Dinamo and Târgu Mureș Basin, which has already been completed. Initially priced at €8 million, the bid was won by Bucharest’s Midanne Invest Group. It started with the left from the beginning.

For more than three years, CNI has not had funding for swimming pools, so the business will start only in 2015. For a short time, because from the very beginning the creator faced another barrier. Feasibility studies were not consistent with the situation on the ground, where groundwater was higher than in the documents.

A “trifle”, other money and wasted time, a year to consolidate the soil. The works actually started only in 2016, when the pool was supposed to be ready! Meanwhile, five building permits had to be issued. By the end of 2017, the building, retail and terraces were ready. Then another problem followed.

It took another year for CNI to agree to buy new timing equipment, as those from the initial project were bypassed by the new FINA rules. In 2021, other changes were needed to get new approval from the ISU, the most recent being 10 years old and also not complying with the new legislation.

CNI is in process with the constructor

Also last year, during the visit of the Minister of Development, Attila Cheki, he did not find any workers on the site! She decided to terminate the contract with Midanne Invest Grup, who filed a lawsuit against CNI. Nothing has moved since then. CNI hired Specialist Consulting for 120 thousand lei, in order to assess the degree of implementation and to determine what work remains to be done.

Conclusion: the work is at 80% level and the rest will be completed by another company after another auction. CNI sources claim that “the auction could last two to three months, depending on the number of companies that will register. The maximum deadline for delivery of the complex will be spring 2023.” €1.2 million is the amount CNI is suing the builders of Midanne Invest Grup, in damages and penalties for failure to complete works in the Brăila Olympic Basin.

1.2 million eurosis the amount CNI is seeking in court from the builders of the Midanne Invest Grup, as damages and fines for failure to complete works in the Brăila Olympic Basin

With this amount, received from the local budget, the new director of LPS Brăila, Dan Gheorghi, promises to begin the rehabilitation of the place where 200 students as well as athletes from CSM Brăila swim during the winter.

The director of LPS Brăila, Dan Gheorghi, took over the position in January 2022. He inherited the sports base in this state and admits that he does not have the funds to invest in its rehabilitation: “The expenses for maintenance of the pool, especially in winter, are very high. In winter, everything needs to be Heating. I don’t have exact data, but with all the price increases, the winter month costs us about 100,000 lei for utilities, for the whole high school. Swimming pools take up about half. As far as I know, in recent years only small repair work has been done, from private funds Or from those allocated by the city council. But there was no investment money. ”

David Popovici champion country without swimming pools!  The astonishing story of the base where Botique, Mokano or Calaro grew up »Images of extreme indifference: raffia bags are

Then he continues: “It’s good that we were able to reopen the big pool. Unfortunately, we can’t do it for the public, to make more money, because we can’t find lifeguards. I announced it, but no one will come.”

About 200 high school students swim here. There are 7 specialized teachers, but only 12-15 athletes participate in competitions. “It is little, but we are trying to increase the number of athletes, to get Brăila back on the Romanian swimming map,” says the LPS director.

This year, LPS received a 100,000 lei grant from the local budget to invest in the rehabilitation of the covered aquarium. The bidding process for the project and the implementation of works for the restoration of the roof, installation of ventilation and other outbuildings in an advanced stage of deterioration is about to begin.

Until then, “We try out of our own money, with the help of City Hall, with our staff, to make sure that the children are safe. And in the summer, we lower the tarpaulin, and we clean it. I hope that now there is no need and start” I can’t give a specific deadline, but I I will try to do everything possible, depending on the costs, to rehabilitate this complex as quickly as possible,” Gheorghiță also announced.

We can’t wait for the Olympic pool to open. It will exempt us from the cost of utilities. No matter who’s running it, we can rent classes there, let our kids in, especially the ones that give a performance. It will be cheaper for us, and with the money left we can still invest in our pools
– Dan Georges, Director of LPS Braila

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