Olympics chiefs’ plans for the sporting legacy of the 2012 Games took a blow today as the provision of public swimming pools in London was revealed.
An unprecedented audit of facilities by the London Assembly shows that after decades of closures 40 per cent of Londoners live more than one mile – or 20 minutes’ walk – from their nearest public pool.
The report’s authors warned that provision of public pools was unlikely to improve before the 2012 Olympics.
They said the findings suggest ministers will find it difficult to boost participation in sport – a key legacy aim of the London Games – through its £140 million free swimming scheme for children and over-sixties. The survey adds to concerns about public sports facilities raised by the Standard’s campaign for a legacy from the London Olympics.
Outlying boroughs are among those with the poorest provision. The worst is Redbridge, with 84 per cent of residents living at least 20 minutes from a pool, followed by Hillingdon (76 per cent) Havering (69 per cent) and Harrow (65 per cent). Residents in Brent, Bromley, Croydon and Greenwich are disadvantaged by “low access” to public transport.
London boroughs fall on average 25 per cent below the Amateur Swimming Association’s target of 13 square metres of pool per 1,000 residents, with the East End particularly poorly served.
The residents with the easiest access to public pools live in central boroughs including Islington, Camden, Kensington and Chelsea and Tower Hamlets.
Data revealed that of London’s 530 pools only 196 (37 per cent) were run by councils while 205 were commercially operated and the rest were operated by schools and universities.
Dee Doocey, chairwoman of the Assembly’s economic development, culture, sport and tourism committee called for measures to improve provision such as urging private schools to open up their pools at the weekends. Ms Doocey also called for councils to consider hiring temporary pools while permanent facilities were shut for refurbishment.
Researchers also found that there are only 11 diving facilities in London, in nine of London’s 33 boroughs. Ms Doocey added: “Getting more people swimming is at the heart of plans for a sports participation legacy from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
”Our report highlights that in 11 London boroughs, half the population live more than 20 minutes’ walk from a public pool. Londoners’ access to public swimming pools will not have improved by 2012.”
Colin Brown, Director of London Swimming, said: “Public swimming pools are the backbone for provision in London. This report clearly shows that although London has a high number of pools we have some significant gaps and that accessibility for more than a third of the population is poor.”
Taken from an excerpt in the Evening Standard