By George Georgakopoulos
A swimming club near the border with Turkey is contemplating using a pool in a nearby Turkish city for training, as its town’s municipal installations have no heating oil to operate in the winter.
This week the club, Nireas Orestiadas, based in the town of Nea Orestiada in northern Evros, sent a letter addressed to the Greek president, the prime minister, the parliamentary speaker, the Culture and Education Ministry, the General Secretariat for Sports and the Hellenic Swimming Federation, saying that the local authority that owns the recently built swimming pool cannot afford to buy the 35 tons of heating oil needed for swimmers to use it in the freezing winter conditions of Thrace.
“The swimming pool is shutting down until April because there is no money for heating oil. There are some athletes, though. There are children whose parents live at the edge of Greece; they wish to train and race just like the children whose parents live in Athens,” the club said in its letter, although swimming pools in Athens are shutting down, too.
“Unfortunately we have a great need for heating oil. Without it, we will not be talking about a swimming pool, but about an ice skating rink,” the club added.
Nireas Orestiadas went on to issue a desperate call for heating oil to be sent directly to the pool, stressing it is not asking for money, otherwise it will have to go across the border to the Turkish city of Edirne, which is just 22 kilometers from Orestiada.
In fact, the local swimming club of Edirne has already invited Nireas Orestiadas to train at its installations for free, which might have obvious political implications.
“It is sad for all of us that a foreign country should come to our help and not our own country,” club president Odysseas Rotsidis says in the letter.
On Thursday the opposition faction on the Orestiada town council proposed the idea of a lottery by the club in order to collect funds for the municipal pool, as if the installations belonged to the club.
Nireas Orestiadas has repeatedly taken part in swimming meets at Edirne and the two clubs are understood to have a very good relationship.
After all, Edirne (Adrianoupoli in Greek and Adrianople in English until 1930) has always had a close relationship with Nea Orestiada, the northernmost Greek town; the latter was established in the 1920s by refugees from Edirne, founded in ancient times as Orestias by mythical hero Orestes, son of Agamemnon, before the advent of Roman Emperor Hadrian, who refounded Edirne and renamed it after himself.
It is therefore no wonder the Orestiada swimmers are bracing for a very warm welcome in Edirne.