Sunday 29 June 2014

The National Sports Centre, Crystal Palace

Assuming you were alive, where were you on 13th July 1964? Sir Alec Douglas-Home was in No.10, and Lyndon B. Johnson was in the White House. The House of the Rising Sun, by The Animals was number one (to be followed the next day by the Rolling Stones / It's all over now), The Vietnam War was in full swing, Malawi gained its independence, the film of A Hard Day's Night was just premiering, and the Post Office Tower had just been completed. Meanwhile, the Duke of Edinburgh was visiting SE19 to open a brand new building, The National Sports Centre.
I first went inside, on joining the gym shortly after moving here 8 years ago, and was blown away by the scale and structure. 60s concrete isn't to everyone's taste, but you can't fail to be impressed by the ambition of the building. With its great nave of angled columns, it's a veritable cathedral of sport. And there can't be many better places to swim in Britain than the 50 metre pool with it's dramatic tower of diving boards. In my view, no less impressive than Zaha's aquatic temple in Stratford.
Designed by London County Council's Architecture Department, the building is admittedly showing its age, but the costs of running such a huge and intensively used building must be vast. It has however, over recent years had much invested in it by its custodians, GLL; new changing rooms, gym facilities, a climbing wall, and even some beach volleyball courts. Being Grade II* listed, it's future, once uncertain, now seems secure, and I'm told further developments are in the pipeline. Watch this space!
Meanwhile there are plans to celebrate its half centenary over the weekend of July 12/13th, with all leisure facilities being free on those dates. Diving board 'taster' sessions will be held on Saturday, along with drop in social tennis sessions.
On sunday the real fun starts with a Big Dance event in the stadium, followed by an open air screening of Mamma Mia, BBQ and catering.
So a very happy birthday to this wonderful piece of our local heritage!


  1. Great photos. Makes me look at it in a different way I suppose :)
    Wouldn't it be great if the side of the pool could be opened up in summer??

    1. Thank you Petra, yes, like the idea of it being open air, but can't see it happening!

  2. An iconic building that deserves preservation.I trained,competed and taught at the sports centre for over 40 years and it still continues to play a major part in the development of future elite athletes as well as the general wellbeing of our community.