Hundreds of well-wishers gathered to see His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge today (Friday 22nd November) when he visited South Shields to open the town's new £16m swimming pool.
On arrival, the Duke spent time greeting scores of cheering schoolchildren and excited members of the public who had all lined up eager to catch a glimpse of the royal guest ahead of his tour of Haven Point in Pier Parade.
The crowds of well-wishers waved Union flags as he was welcomed by the Mayor and Mayoress of South Tyneside, Councillor Ernest Gibson and Patricia Ridley, South Tyneside Council Chief Executive Martin Swales, South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck and the Leader of South Tyneside Council, Councillor Iain Malcolm, who led the Duke on a tour of the new swimming pool and leisure complex.
The Duke unveiled a commemorative plaque to mark the official opening and signed the visitor's book.
The Mayor said: "We were honoured to welcome His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge to South Shields to open our superb new swimming pool. It is a very proud day for us all.
"It was also wonderful to see so many people turn out to see history in the making on this very special occasion, which I'm sure will be fondly remembered by the people of the Borough for many years to come. I'd also like to thank everyone for the important part they have played in making the Royal visit a memorable one and giving the Duke a warm South Tyneside welcome."
Accompanied by the Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear, Nigel Sherlock, the Duke saw local mums, their babies and schoolchildren from South Tyneside Council's Learn to Swim Programme in the centre's new teaching pool while youngsters enjoyed playing in the leisure waters complete with flumes, sprays and bubble pool.
He was then led into the centre's new 25 metre, eight-lane competition pool where local lifeguards demonstrated water survival training and resuscitation skills.
There were also displays by talented members of South Tyneside Swimming Club as well as representatives of the English School's Swimming Association (ESSA) - of which the Duke is patron - from St Joseph's Catholic Academy in Hebburn.
South Tyneside swimming champions, Josef Craig MBE and Nicole Lough, were among the special guests to be introduced to the Duke in recognition of their sporting achievements.
Josef, from Jarrow, became Team GB's youngest gold medallist in the London 2012 Paralympic Games. The Double World Champion and World Record Holder was also named the BBC's Young Sports Personality of the Year 2012 and received an MBE for his services to swimming.
He said: "It was amazing to meet The Duke. He is a very busy man and it was fantastic to see him come to South Shields, spend time with the public and talk to me and Nicole. He asked me about my future and what it felt like to be part of the London 2012 Paralympics. The Duke also said I was an inspiration to others. It was a dream come true and one of the biggest honours of my career. It's on a par with when I received by MBE from The Queen."
Para-swimmer Nicole, also from South Shields, is a three-time British record holder and claimed bronze at the International Paralympic Committee World Swimming Championships in the summer. Nicole was Haven Point's first customer when the centre opened its doors on Monday 28th October.
The Duke was also introduced to Nicola Atherton, President Elect of the English Schools Swimming Association and Michelle Castles, creator of the 'Wavemaker' sculpture - life-sized wire mesh models of a man swimming the butterfly stroke, which are suspended from the ceiling overlooking the main reception area.
During his time at Haven Point, the Duke of Cambridge also attended a Diana Award Inspire Day training event involving around 30 young people aged 12 to18. The event involved young people taking part in three workshops focusing on training for anti-bullying ambassadors, learning about project management skills and employability mentoring.
As well as the three pools, Haven Point has an 80 station gym, two dance studios, a sauna and steam room, a cafe, visitor information centre and an outdoor amphitheatre with a terrace and rooftop viewing gallery with stunning seafront views.
The new leisure complex is a key part of South Tyneside Council's commitment to regenerate South Shields and the seafront to make it an all year round premier coastal resort.
Council Leader, Councillor Malcolm added: "Haven Point is a world-class facility and demonstrates our continued commitment to investing in the future of our residents and attracting more visitors to the Borough. It was an honour to lead The Duke of Cambridge on a tour of the centre.
"It will not only serve as a first class leisure facility but an important community and social venue that will help to enhance the Borough's health, wellbeing and tourism offer.
"The official opening of Haven Point is a key milestone for what has been a very exciting project and it was wonderful to have a member of the Royal Family celebrate this very important day with us. We were also very excited to show The Duke the progress we are making with our regeneration plans."
For more information about Haven Point, visit www.southtyneside.info/havenpoint
Further details of South Tyneside Council's plans to transform South Shields are available at www.southshields365.co.uk