I’m told the Sydney 2000 Olympics were a bloody great time for this city. Sydney turned on its blue skies, love of barbecues, sports betting and good old-fashioned Australian efficiency. People with face paint hugged strangers, NSW Police were friendly and everyone got to watch sport 24/7 for 17 days straight.
But 15 years later, how is middle age actually treating the Olympic facilities?
First of all, just getting to the Olympic Park Aquatic Centre takes sheer determination and commitment. A 45 minute drive across town in Sydney weekend traffic is worthy of a medal. Homebush, the epicentre of Sydney 2000, is kind of caught in a late 90s time-warp. Distinguishable for its love of large carparks, abundance of eucalyptus trees and giant steel sporting objects.
On arrival I realize it has all been a terrible mistake. The carpark entry flashes a $15 flat rate sign for ‘today’s event’ and suddenly we are flanked by gaggles of excited tweens in sporting gear. The Olympic spirit clearly lives on as we line-up with parents, trash-talking their teen competitors for the Sydney swim club race day.
I ask the friendly man at the desk if any pool lanes are free for the general public. He flashes me a ‘sorry you are stupid’ smile and ushers me into the general swimming complex, away from the razor-backed tweens.
So it, turns out the Aquatic Centre has done a pretty great job at reinventing itself.
The enormous complex not only houses a competitive pool area, with pretty large stadium seating for events, it also offers a lazy-persons swimming complex which is seriously impressive. In fact it is so impressive there are trees inside the complex. Actual palm trees, that line a 50 metre pool and shade probably the best kids water complex in Sydney.
At only $7.50 for an entry fee it is seriously a poor man’s Wet n Wild, with waterslides, spray jets, a bucket dump, and a highly enjoyable river rapid ride. Too bad it was the school holidays, it was advisable to make sure your mouth was closed at all times while swimming underwater.
The location and excellent facilities make this pool complex multi-cultural Sydney at its best. A reminder of this was the excessive signage in five different languages making it clear that approved swimwear must be worn at all times. Ladies underwear is not appropriate.
High points: That river rapid ride really got me. It was an on-steroids flashback to creating whirlpools in my grandparents spa pool. Also getting free parking with our entry fee.
Low points: The changing rooms were pure mother toddler chaos. Get in and get out, unless you want to get caught up in a sing-a-long alphabet chorus. The café was also not great, unless you really love donuts.
Attire: polar fleece and 2XU running tights
Cost: $7. 50 for adults
Best for: Kids parties and whirl pool enthusiasts
Overall score – 8.9