England’s swimming pool ‘deserts’ make future Olympic success far less likely

The provision of public swimming space across England is deeply unfair - and it’s getting worse

The main swimming pool hall of the Manchester Aquatics Centre (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

During the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the nation regularly woke up to the sight of Team GB athletes powering through the pool or leaping gracefully from a diving board.

It was an inspiring way to start the day, as we munched on our muesli and lived vicariously through these impressive aquatic stars.

Sign up to our NationalWorld Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

And we’re about to get the chance to do it all over again, with the Paralympics starting today.

In total, Team GB won four golds, three silvers and a bronze in swimming, and one gold and two bronzes in diving.

This success on the world stage is made all the more impressive when you consider the patchy provision of swimming pools across England, as revealed by Claire Wilde in her story for NationalWorld today.

The North East has less than a third of the public pool space found in the South East, and three regions - the North West, West Midlands and East Midlands - only have two public diving pools each.

Great Britain Diving Federation president Jim McNally told us: “This is a situation which is getting worse and worse and the grassroots sport is being allowed to wither on the vine.”

Even if your local town or city is lucky enough to have a swimming pool with top-notch facilities, the entry costs are often prohibitively expensive for some families.

And it’s not looking good for the future: Swim England said it predicted the nation would lose 40% of its existing pools by the end of the decade.

Unless something is done quickly, it will be a miracle if Team GB is able to replicate its Olympic success in the pool at Paris in 2024, Los Angeles in 2028 or Brisbane in 2032.

Loading....

A message from the editor:

Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going. You can also sign up to our newsletters and get a curated selection of our best reads to your inbox every day.