Russell Crowe opens Nana Glen pool

By BELINDA SCOTT

A WET hug said more than all the official speeches at Saturday's opening of the Nana Glen Community Pool.

When a sopping Russell Crowe grabbed his equally wet father Alex Crowe for a big bear hug in the deep end of the sparkling new pool, it was the culmination of five years of work, negotiation and worry.

Actor and occasional Nana Glen resident Russell Crowe donated $200,000 for a pool at Nana Glen Public School in 2003 after his family heard of the drowning death of a school student.

The actor said the idea of the pool really started with his father 'but he doesn't want me to mention that.'

But the Crowe family's plan for a simple school pool morphed into a major community project with a budget of close to $1 million and all the attendant headaches and paperwork.

Alex Crowe became the man on the spot and the spokesman for the Nana Glen steering committee on the pool project, now a public swimming pool under the control of the Coffs Harbour City Council, on land excised from the school grounds.

Yesterday Russell Crowe returned to act as MC for the official opening, flanked by champion swimmer Geoff Huegilll and South Sydney rugby league players Dean Widders and Nathan Merritt.

Geoff Huegill, whose father and grandfather both lived in Coffs Harbour, was the first to hit the water on Saturday, demonstrating the butterfly stroke that gave him a world record and two Olympic gold medals.

The swim star, who began swimming at the age of three and promotes learning to swim, told the big crowd of children and families that being safe in the water was more important than being an Olympic champion.

Russell Crowe nipped in the bud any tendency by politicians to use the occasion as an election forum, by decreeing anyone speaking for more than five minutes would take an involuntary swim.

Coffs Harbour Mayor Keith Rhoades heeded the warning, while the senior politician of the day, the youthful NSW Minister for Sport and Recreation, Graham West, was refreshingly brief, saying it was one of the best looking pools he had seen and a fantastic asset.

Local firms, organisations, tradespeople and individuals have also supported the pool, constructed by Glen Williams' Dolphin Pools.

The project also includes a share structure, landscaping, a kiosk and change rooms

Laurie Renshall's voice broke at the end of his speech as he recalled Rory Hallam, the student whose drowning in December 2001 was the catalyst for the project and who would have turned 18 this year.

The Nana Glen Public School principal said today (Monday, November 19) would see the start of learn to swim lessons at the pool for four Orara Valley schools with all six Valley schools to become involved next year.

"I hope a boy who would have turned 18 this year is looking down on us and saying 'job well done' Mr Renshall said.



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