Olympic Legacy: Swimming Will Save Us

By Lindsey Last edited 119 months ago
Olympic Legacy: Swimming Will Save Us

The DCMS finally launched a 2012 Legacy Action Plan today. State sponsored swimming is the central thrust, the headline catching whiz of an idea that's made the news.

By 2012, it's planned that all local authority swimming baths will be free to use, starting soon with the over 60s, then the under 16s and rolling out to all comers by the time the Games begin. £140m is going to local authorities to scrap swimming charges for OAPs and invest in their facilities in the next year.

Sports minister, Andy Burnham, explains:

If somebody is currently inactive, it's the most likely sport they're going to do. But unlike other sports, swimming has a barrier in its way and it's called an entry charge.

We disagree. Whilst we're a big fan of swimming, outdoors especially, there are more barriers than an entry charge. He's conveniently forgetting the humiliation of public changing rooms, swimming costume fear, rampant unruly body hair, verruca anxiety, underwater perving, getting your hair wet and hating swimming hats. To name just a few. Still, Tessa Jowell reckons up to 10 million people will benefit from this scheme alone and she "hopes" the government can deliver free swimming by 2012. We won't hold our breath then.

In other pledges, £7m is going into schemes to encourage people to walk and £75 million will be spent on "a targeted social marketing programme to support parents in changing children’s diet and increasing levels of physical activity." We're not sure what this latter actually means but it feels rather like shedloads of cash being thrown at getting people to walk, the most natural form of exercise in the world and telling them how to parent.

So let's focus on the swimming. Yay! And not dwell too long on the fact that Londoners' sceptisicm about the Olympic legacy may have been well founded.

Image courtesy of law_keven's Flickrstream under the Creative Commons Attribution license.

Last Updated 06 June 2008


The cost of swimming in the capital and elsewhere is minimal (unless you're talking the swankiest spas), and so making it free probably won't make much of a difference.
Sparkly shiny clean changing rooms might help: I swim regularly, and that's the one downer as far as I am concerned - dirty facilities.


Minimal costs soon add up, though. £3 a swim is about £10 a week if you go fairly regularly - for someone on limited income (eg a lot of over-60s and under-16s) that's quite a lot.

Psychologists are also well aware that making things free also tends to attract people far more than it ought to, in terms of standard economic theory. Witness the big increase in people going to museums when they were made free entry. They weren't people who necessarily couldn't afford it before, indeed a lot of the increase was among fairly well-off people. Or see the queues outside Ben & Jerry's when they do a free cone day.


Free swimming would be very cool! I doubt if Tessa Jowell's gonna be in charge of a whelk stall never mind the Olympics come 2012, but if they're really promising me a free swim I might even have to consider voting for the fools. Failing that, I'd be happy for Boris to rename my beloved Cally Pool the Tessa Jowell's Career Memorial Baths.