The Cottonera Sports Complex indoor pool has finally been completed, almost three years behind schedule, with costs ballooning to €14 million from the €8 million originally quoted in 2019 upon the project’s announcement.
The pool was inaugurated by Prime Minister Robert Abela on Tuesday, despite initially being planned for completion in December 2020 to be used during the 2023 Games of the Small States of Europe (GSSE), which Malta hosted last May.
Speaking about the GSSE at the inauguration, Abela avoided mention of the Cottonera project’s late completion and mentioned investments made into other sports facilities for the event, at least four of which The Shift has reported were not completed in time.
Abela also mentioned a €5 million investment given out to local sports organisations in preparation for this year’s games, on which the government has refused to divulge details, ignoring several rounds of questions from The Shift and declining freedom of information requests on related expenditure.
The swimming pool complex was initially announced in March 2019 with an estimated cost of €8 million and an expected completion date in December the following year.
Last May, The Shift reported on a series of failed projects forming part of a €37.7 million investment by SportMalta.
The projects included new facilities for local athletes’ training and use in the GSSE. Many of the facilities were initially meant to be completed by 2021, leaving ample time for their use in the training for the games. However, not one of them met the deadline.
These included a still-incomplete €16 million pool in Victoria, Gozo, a €3 million tennis complex in Pembroke, a €9 million indoor squash and weightlifting complex in Marsa, and the recently inaugurated Cottonera Sports Complex.
Ahead of the games, Sports and Education Minister Clifton Grima said the projects’ scope was broader than their use for the GSSE, claiming they were part of an even larger €60 million investment package in response to a parliamentary question by Opposition MP Graziella Galea.
The projects listed under this package also included the Ta’ Kandja Shooting Range, which a report by the National Audit Office confirmed was grossly mismanaged, and investments in several smaller sports courts and complexes.
Neither Abela nor Grima has publicly acknowledged delays on the projects, with all government communication opting to reframe the delayed inauguration as a general investment in sports rather than missed targets.