The €14 million Olympic-sized swimming pool at the Cottonera Sports Complex is missing essential services and equipment, meaning it cannot be used for competitive swimming, despite government assurances at its recent inauguration that it is equipped with “all the best technologies.”
The pool was inaugurated in September, years behind schedule and some €6 million over its initial budget, but it lacks a dedicated warm-up and cool-down pool and does not have a timer scoreboard or touchpads.
The Shift contacted Mark Cutajar, the CEO of SportMalta, to ask about the missing equipment, but he did not reply. However, the Aquatic Sports Association (ASA) said they were “in discussion with SportMalta to come up with options for how aquatic events can be held at Cottonera.”
The complex is supposed to host the national swimming championships scheduled for April 2024.
Frustrated parents of swimmers told The Shift they were astonished that the pool, widely touted by the government as state-of-the-art, misses such basic features.
A separate pool for warm-ups and cool-downs is “standard,” they said, while the missing timer board and touchpads made the pool “useless” for competitive swimming. Instead, competitive swimmers are using the outdoor Tal-Qroqq complex.
The ASA suggested that the pool could be reduced in size, dedicating a portion for warm-ups and cool-downs. However, this would mean the pool is no longer Olympic-sized – a key feature.
Regarding the missing timing equipment, the ASA said SportMalta is assisting in “the procurement of the required equipment for the use at the Cottonera pool to cover all aquatic disciplines.”
The association claimed the equipment would be installed in time for the national championships.
The Shift has previously reported how SportMalta has mismanaged multiple multi-million-euro projects for sports complexes supposed to be completed in time for training and used in the 2023 Games of the Small States of Europe, hosted by Malta in June.
These included the €14 million Cottonera Sports Complex, a still-incomplete €16 million pool in Victoria, Gozo, a €3 million tennis complex in Pembroke and a €9 million indoor squash and weightlifting complex in Marsa.
So far, Cutajar has refused to give details on the number of variations approved on the Cottonera project, substantially boosting the contractor V&C’s final pay packet.
Sources who spoke to The Shift in May said there were tensions between Sports Minister Clifton Grima and Cutajar over the “erratic and confrontational” management of the games and related projects.
In September, Andrew Decelis resigned from his post as SportMalta chairman just 12 months after taking the helm. Labour Party MP Omar Farrugia has since replaced him.