Free swimming initiative launched
THE £140 million scheme offering free swimming to under 16s and over 60s has been launched today in an attempt to realise the London 2012 Olympic legacy.
The initiative will benefit 20 million people across England with £31m allocated to councils to cover the cost, with a further £50m available to improve facilities.
The Government cash injection, announced last June, is part of a promise to help get two million people more active by the time London hosts the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.
And Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Andy Burnham believes this is just the tip of the iceberg.
"This is a landmark moment in our bid to build a healthier and more active nation," he said.
"It is real evidence of our ambition to use the Olympic and Paralympic Games to lift sport in this country.
"It is also the day when London 2012 made a real difference on the ground, and to people up and down the country.
"Swimming has been a real passion of mine since I took it up as a small child.
"I hope that by making swimming free for so many in this country we will encourage people to find the time to swim."
The scheme was launched in Eltham, Greenwich by Olympics minster Tessa Jowell, Paralympic gold medallist Heather Frederiksen and 400m freestyle world record holder Jo Jackson.
Jackson set that world record at the British Gas national championships in Sheffield last month - an event with no live television coverage - much to the ire of British Swimming chief executive David Sparkes.
Four out of five - or 288 - councils in England have signed up to provide free swimming for over-60s at more than 1,000 pools while 207 are offering it to young people.
Funding aimed at covering the cost of free pool access, during standard swimming sessions, is guaranteed for at least two years.