Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Sue Hudson

  I would be most grateful if you could pass my comments to the members of the Committee examining the Sport of Swimming on Tuesday 4 December 2001.

  Swimming is, to my mind, the Cinderella sport. It has never had the same type of media status that team sports such as football or rugby achieve, yet more people swim on a regular basis than take part in such team sports.

  As a result, local pools are constantly under threat and every year their number diminishes.

  Occasionally stories of these closures are carried in local papers, very rarely in national papers, yet the situation in Britain at the moment is clearly a national disgrace and one that needs to be attended to immediately if things are not to get to the stage where they can no longer be repaired.

  Swimming is something that almost anyone can do and benefit by—all that is required is a pool and a swim suit. However, as Sky sports or the BBC are not fighting to get broadcast rights—as pages of newspapers are not devoted to it—it seems OK to let this vital part of our national heritage and our national future just rot.

  What do swimmers have to do to get the attention of the government and the media? Would anyone notice if we decided to go on strike? No, of course not—but my point is that the importance of swimming to national life is to my mind as great as that of any other high profile sport—but it is not regarded in that way and it does not get the investment that it deserves and requires.

  We have all been brainwashed into thinking that everything has to be financially viable but there are some things whose value you cannot measure in simple financial terms—that is too short term and limited. Swimming pools do not make money, no matter how popular they are but this is not a good enough reason to let them be bulldozed to the ground or to weaken in commitment to swimming.

  We also as a nation seem to have grown to accept dry measurements of sports facilities requirement—there is talk about how many square metres of water are available per thousand population. This is done and accepted by governments with no reference to other factors such as proximity to the population, size of the pool or opening hours. For real evaluation of facilities all factors need to be looked at.

  I hope that the look at swimming by the government committee will mark a new beginning for this hugely popular activity. Swimmers need the support of the government to ensure that facilities remain available to the general public. What a sad world it would be for all of us if we could no longer have our children go off on their bikes with their friends to use the local pool—or worse still find that they are no longer taught how to swim because of lack of public facilities.

  At a time when everyone seems to be worrying about the overall health of the nation, the government could do much by ensuring that swimming facilities remain local and public.

  I strongly ask you to make this commitment.

3 December 2001

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