Double Olympic Champion James Guy: Potential Loss Of Almost 2,000 Pools In England Is Horrendous

Jul 31, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; James Guy (GBR) and Adam Peaty (GBR) celebrate victory in the mixed 4x100m medley relay final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
James Guy (front): Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA Today Sports

Double Olympic champion James Guy has described as “horrendous” Swim England’s prediction that almost 2,000 pools in England could be lost forever by the end of the decade.

The governing body made its grim forecast in its newly-published A Decade of Decline: The Future of Swimming Pools in England report and is backing calls for the Government to commit to investing £1 billion (1.36 billion US dollars) into public leisure facilities to help refurbish existing pools as well as building the new ones needed in the future.

It says that unless urgent action is taken to replace ageing facilities, millions of people could be left without access to a pool by 2030.

According to Swim England, the shortage is based on pools which were constructed in the 1960s and 1970s and are coming to the end of their lifespan while not enough new facilities are being built to replace them.

While the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the issue, it is not a direct cause for the dire prediction.

However, the report states that “if we continue on the current trend, the number of available pools in England will fall by 40 per cent by the end of the decade – down from the current 4,336 to around 2,468”.

James Guy

Guy was a standout on the team in Tokyo, returning with two relay golds and a silver as part of the most successful swimming contingent from British shores.

The squad secured four golds, three silvers and one bronze among an eight-strong medal haul with Guy calling for investment to help nurture the next generation and ensure people were safe in and around water.

He said in a Swim England release:

“We were the most successful [swimming] team at an Olympic Games and to hear that our future stars might not be able to access pools in the next decade or so is horrendous.

“If there’s no pools, you can’t build the foundation for club swimmers to come and take our position as Olympic swimmers.

“We have to inspire that future generation and I’m pretty sure during the Games a lot of us did that.

“We want to keep going and pass it down to the next stars coming through. That’s why you see Adam Peaty doing his swim clinics and myself doing mine and other different things to promote water safety.

“But we can’t do that if pools are closing – it’s absolutely appalling.

“We want to be in a nice environment and councils and the Government not backing that is very, very unfair.

“They should be prioritising where the results are and swimming is definitely top of that list.

“It’s a real shame and quite sad.”

Adam Peaty and Luke Greenbank have also previously issued calls for further investment.

Peaty became the first British swimmer to defend an Olympic title with victory in the 100m breaststroke as well as claiming gold and silver in the mixed and men’s medley relay respectively.

He said in Tokyo:

“Sport needs money, everyone knows that.

“So there needs to be more investment than ever, to secure the next generation, especially in swimming where you’ve got swimming clubs who have to raffle and fundraise on their own.”

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Luke Greenbank, Cockermouth SC: Photo Courtesy: Sean Balmer

Greenbank – who won bronze in the 200m backstroke – spoke of the financial struggles clubs and facilities were facing and how he hoped Olympic success would encourage more people to take up swimming.

His swimming journey started under former coach Sean Balmer at the Cockermouth club – more here.

He said:

“I talked to my old coach and he said after the first lockdown, there were a few swimmers who struggled to come back, maybe lost support.

“They had to fundraise to open, so it’s obviously been an extremely difficult time for lots of clubs around the country.

“For our sport it’s so difficult with leisure centres closing and struggling to be financially viable.

“The team is full of positive role models, it’s great for kids to look up to.

“I really hope that this has the opposite effect of the pandemic, that it brings new people in and gets them involved in swimming.”

Nickerson Warns Against Health Inequalities

Swim England wants part of the £1 billion funding to be used so communities can apply for grants to get design and feasibility studies completed, the costs of which can currently be a barrier to pools being built.

It is also calling on local authorities short of water space to include the provision of new pools in any application they make to the government’s Levelling Up Fund, which pledges to invest in local infrastructure and drive regeneration.

The report highlights that almost a quarter of local authorities (23 per cent) in England have a deficit of at least one average-sized swimming pool.

Jane Nickerson

Photo Courtesy: Jane Nickerson Twitter

Chief executive Jane Nickerson said:

“Swimming pools are naturally essential to the future of all our aquatic sports if we are to nurture the next Adam Peaty, Tom Daley, Anna Hopkin or Maisie Summers-Newton.

“However, they are so much more than that.

“Pools are hubs of the local community, helping people of all ages to lead healthier, happier lives and saving the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds each year.

“They are also the places where millions learn a skill that could one day save their life – or someone else’s.

“It’s particularly timely that we’re discussing this as today marks National Fitness Day, where we celebrate the vital role of leisure centres and gyms and the positive impact they have on so many lives.

“It reminds us that it’s more important than ever to ensure we have the facilities we need for people to continue to enjoy in the future.

“Without adequate investment into the new pools this country needs, we are forecasting a huge decline in the available water space by the end of the decade, threatening the future of our sports, leaving millions shut out of the activities they love and widening health inequities.

“The time to act is now.”

 

 


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