Instead of overflowing with the world's finest swimmers, the new soldiers Field natatorium remained dormant this weekend, except for the last minute operations of inspectors and construction personnel.
Delays, so common an occurence in construction, forced Harvard to give up its opportunity to have the U.S. Women's International Swimming Meet here this past weekend. Although Harvard retained sponsorship of the event, and the Harvard swimmers and their coaches did a marvelous job in running a wonderful meet, the cost of the delays will weigh heavily on the Harvard swim program.
Hosting the meet in Providence rather than Cambridge cost Harvard a chance at national television exposure for the multi-million dollar pool, and it also cost the swim teams a valuable chance to impress some of the best swimmers in the world with Harvard's beautiful new facility.
From a purely selfish point of view, the move to Providence was a damaging one. Instead of the world's best women swimmers getting a chance to see Harvard's impressive pool, they got a chance to see Brown's. The Harvard attempt to fill Brown's pool with Veritas banners and Harvard t-shirts still does not nullify the effects of the location.
When swimmers from around the world remember the meet, they will remember the Smith Swimming Complex, not the Soldiers Field one. To them, Soldiers Field is still an unknown, just a facility that couldn't be built in time.
Hopefully, the efforts of Harvard swim coaches and swimmers to talk to the visitors and spread the Harvard name will serve as some consolation. With smiles and kind words, the Harvardians befriended many swimmers, and at least the visitors will think favorably about the Harvard hosts.
Yet coaches and performers will still go back home and tell their friends and families about the beautiful pool at Brown. Instead of getting them to think about spending their university days in Cambridge, the meet may have started many swimmers thinking about the possibility of going to Providence.
And that goes for men as well as women. Coaches will talk to the men swimmers back home and the women will tell their male friends about Brown. The visitors know Providence, not Cambridge, and that is a big blow to Harvard swimming.
The weekend was a chance for Harvard to show off its new pool, courtesy of NBC television. All the swimmers sitting at home watching t.v. will see Brown University, not Harvard. We lose again.
The new pool is a magnificent addition to Harvard swimming. Except for the decision not to include the ten-meter diving platform, a money-conscious compromise that leaves the new facility incomplete, the pool will serve as an asset for Harvard swimming. With added room to practice and improved diving facilities plus the advantages of new locker room and training areas, the natatorium can only be a plus.
Yet the loss of this weekend's meet star's things working against the pool before its door have ever been opened. It is unfortunate that the construction took so long and ran so far behind schedule. The delays punched a few leaks in an otherwise solid facility and also destroyed an ideal opportunity for Harvard recruiting.