Public pools not for public

Local | Michael Shum 15 Nov 2019

The Ombudsman is investigating whether coaching activities at public swimming pools have been properly regulated in order to avoid causing nuisances for other swimmers.

The watchdog yesterday announced an investigation into the rules laid down by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department regarding such activities.

Preliminary inquiries by the Office of the Ombudsman revealed that the LCSD has yet to establish a standardized mechanism for the designation of public coaching areas in public swimming pools.

Although coaching activities are generally allowed, it must not cause any nuisance to other pool users, according to the Public Swimming Pools Regulation.

The government watchdog said that it found it necessary to examine the regulation so as to minimize the nuisance caused to other swimmers.

Ombudsman Winnie Chiu Wai-yin said: "There is a practical need for members of the public to learn swimming at public swimming pools, hence the LCSD should consider measures to segregate different types of swimmers so as to reduce conflicts between those participating in coaching activities and other swimmers."

There are currently 44 public swimming pools under the management of the LCSD, and a public coaching area is designated in nine of them to better regulate coaching activities.

This came after a previous investigation alleged that individual and group coaching activities had disrupted other swimmers, with several complaints being received at the office.

Last year, the Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association and its affiliates were accused of making use of their relatively higher priority to book swimming lanes, as a non-profit-making organization, to make money out of public resources.

Students attending the classes had to deposit the fees into private bank accounts, in order to use swimming lanes booked by the association.

LCSD had promised at that time to implement a penalty system and review management guidelines regarding the booking of swimming lanes.

It was also alleged earlier in the year that swimming lanes, allocated to various national sports associations, were unfairly distributed among their affiliates, leaving smaller swimming clubs struggling while favoring bigger ones.

This has raised eyebrows and some questioned if a transfer of benefits was involved. Although the LCSD brushed aside those allegations, a direct investigation by the Ombudsman was initiated regarding the incident.

Citizens are invited to write to the office to give their opinion by December 13.

michael.shum@singtaonewscorp.com

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