People unfamiliar with the history of water sports are unlikely to regard them as blood sports unless they have heard of the Water Polo clash between Hungary and the USSR at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, shortly after the invasion of Hungary by Warsaw Pact troops. But blood was spilt this Sunday as the gory photo of a swimmer who had just left the pool shows.

He received lacerations to his foot from broken ceramic tiling in the Chiang Mai 700 Year 50 metre pool situated beside the Chiang Mai Irrigation Canal Road West of the Provincial Offices.

The 700 year pool, including Oylmpic standard swimming and diving pools is part of the 700 Year sports centre, built for the 1995 South East Asian Games. The water sports centre is the most elaborate in northern Thailand and at 60 baht for casual adult use is the most expensive operated by the state. For comparison the Phrae Olympic pool costs 20 baht for an adult while the Chiang Mai Municipal pool charges 30 baht.

The 700 year pool is operated by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports which is also responsible for a major project under construction also along the Irrigation Canal Road.

The word “operated” is used advisedly as the Ministry denies “responsibility” as can be seen from this sign posted on the ladders leading to the diving towers as early as last February.

The diving pool, which once saw elite athletes from South East Asia performing at their best is no longer usable for training. The four spring boards have all been removed. The ladders to the towers are broken and rust is breaking open much of the diving structures.

Elsewhere deterioration of the pool appears to be accelerating with  ceramic steps for exiting both pools broken and jagged. Last year 2011 both the Chiang Mai Municipal Pool and Chiang Mai University Pool were closed for a period of renovation yet the Ministry of Tourism and Sports seems more interested in its mega projects than providing safe facilities for the public.

With Chiang Mai Province going to the polls on 23rd June 2012 to elect a new Provincial Assembly and President, it appears that the new office bearers have one more issue to raise with Prime Minister Yingluck alongside other urgent matters such as the, so far non-existent, government campaign to end open burning and reduce the annual pall of smoke haze.