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The Connection reports: Swimming in the Seine could become a reality in the next year as mayor Anne Hidalgo has launched a 43-point plan to clean up the Paris river.

Aiming to make the Seine a focal point if the city wins the 2024 Olympic Games, she wants to “improve the water quality” and open up the Bassin de la Villette for swimmers next year.

Swimming has been banned on the river since 1923 except by special permit and the last major event to be held on the Seine was the Paris Triathlon in 2012. However, that year a competitor died after falling ill in the water and the next planned event, with 3,000 swimmers, was banned by the prefecture. More…

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Malcolm Tozer Reviews: Hung Out to Dry: Swimming and British Culture, in the Spring Edition of Physical Education Matters.

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It was by chance that your reviewer came across this privately published social history of swimming and the evident enthusiasm of its author – devotee of outdoor bathing and self-taught historian – prompted the request for a copy. Chris Ayriss’s idiosyncratic approach is as refreshing as the waters he loves and the ebb and flow of his story matches that of meandering stream; you never know what is round the next bend.

The Blue Lagoon Bristol 1937

The book spans ancient and modern, from the Roman occupation of Britain right up to the health-and-safety madness of present times. On the journey we meet bathing to satisfy superstitious, ritualistic, religious, medical, sensual, sexual, naturist, hygienic and escapist needs – amongst others – sometimes with the active approval of society, sometimes not. It would seem that skinny-dipping just for fun was never as simple as that.

Henleaze Lake Bristol 1932

Bathing’s real boom began in the mid-Victorian period when Thomas Cook introduced cheap rail excursions to seaside resorts; week-long factory closures saw whole towns decamp to Skeggie or Clacton; Billy Butlin’s promise of a week’s holiday for a week’s wage led to the popularity of holiday camps; major resorts competed for the biggest lidos and the highest diving boards; and inland cities provided their own riverside beaches and swimming lakes. Some marvellous photographs show packed crowds on Blackpool beach in 1949, with no room to swing a spade; sand-castle building in the shadow of London’s Tower Bridge in 1939; a sardine-jammed lido in Bristol in 1937; and fantastic multiple diving platforms at Henleaze and Weston-super-Mare.

London-on-Sea 1939

The demise from the 1960s was sudden: it came with the introduction of cheap flights to Mediterranean beaches; the delights of sun and sangria; the building of corporation indoor swimming complexes; riverside landowners denying right of access; health concerns about polluted rivers, canals and lakes; and safety worries over unsupervised bathing. Recent evidence from my outlook in Cornwall suggests that a partial recovery is underway – helped by the economic recession, the popularity of ‘staycations’, and the ready availability of wetsuits. Is the bucket-and-spade holiday back in fashion?

Wild Swimming

All this is told in a jaunty style. A bevy of blurred boys’ bare bottoms may see the book banned from school libraries, but there is much here to inform and entertain all who have ever delighted in a midnight skinny-dip – outdoors, of course.

Hung Out to Dry: Swimming and British Culture, by Chris Ayriss, Lulu.com, 2012, £14.50, ISBN 978-0-557-12428-2

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Paris 1945

Paris 1945

Swimming in Paris has a connection with both Leicester and the Olympics. Leicester swimmer John/Jack Arthur Jarvis won 108 swimming championships including two golds at the Paris Olympics in 1900. He learned to swim in the canal in Leicester and founded the Leicester Swimming Club. He was one of only 15 swimmers honored at the official opening of America’s Swimming Hall of Fame in 1968.

Discover the history of swimming…

Wild Swimmer

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Ice swimmers in Russia’s Far East participated in the 2014 Olympic torch relay on Tuesday.

Members of the national ice swimming team carried the torch during their swim in the Amur river.

 

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English: Tom Daley, British diver, at the para...

 

 

 

 

The success of Tom Daley at the 2012 Olympics and the recent TV show Splash have inspired many primary school children to aspire to become high divers. The number seeking instruction at one Edinburgh pool has trebled from less than 150 last year to over 500.

 

Mandie Arthur, the Commonwealth Pool’s dive coach is quoted by the Scotsman as saying: “The children coming in are telling us they saw diving on TV and want to be the next Daley. They are full of confidence and have no fear of the diveboards, and they all want to leap off from 10 metres from the word go. I have one four-year-old who is able to dive in from the five-metre board. It’s amazing.”

 

The big problem we now face is a lack of facilities available for our eager youngsters. Children make up the greater percentage of swimmers in the UK with more than 50% less than 12 years of age (Hung Out to Dry Swimming and British Culture page 34). During the ‘golden age’ of swimming every pool had diving facilities yet following the publication in 1988 of the Health and Safety Commission’s  ‘Safety in Swimming Pools’, tighter controls were imposed throughout the United Kingdom and many authorities closed their diving boards. Divers and jumpers that dare use piers and quaysides (simply because there is now little else available) have suffered a negative press being branded as tombstoners. However the desire to dive like Tom Daley is an enduring phenomenon. It seems that the nation’s children are truly inspired so now it is up to the Swimming community to respond to this exciting new enthusiasm for diving.

 

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Ivan Burt-Smith (8) who will be swimming 22 miles (1416 lengths)  at Selkirk Swimming Pool to raise funds for a new roof for Selkirk Scout Group hall
An eight year old cub scout is to help raise the estimated £25,000 needed to reslate the roof of his scout hall.His father reports: “the children have been quite captured with everything involved with the Olympics, and swimming particularly, and Ivan came up with the idea of swimming ‘the Channel’ himself.”

Ivan is now swimming between three and five times a week as he gears up for the self-imposed challenge. He was having swimming lessons once a week until joining the Selkirk pool’s swimming club which meets twice a week, and he is going along with Olga his sister to swim on other evenings.

The Channel is roughly equivalent to 1,416 lengths of Selkirk swimming pool. Ivan will swim three to five one hour sessions per week depending on how he can fit it around his homework and other activities.“He will swim approximately 50 to 55 lengths per session, hoping to finish in a little over 24 hours in total so, effectively, he will be swimming the Channel in just over a day! He plans to complete his challenge on Tuesday, March 12 at some time between 6.30pm and 7pm so that people can come and cheer him on to the finish if they want to.” More…

Channel Swimming

A milestone in British swimming history saw the successful cross channel swim by Captain Matthew Webb in 1875. As the crow flies, the distance from Dover to Calais is just less than eighteen miles, but tides and winds mean a longer distance has to be covered by the swimmer. It took Webb twenty-one hours forty five minutes to complete the crossing. He then held on to the accolade of channel supremacy until 1911, when T W Burgess managed to swim across on his sixteenth attempt. The effect of Webb’s success had a dramatic impact on the nation’s youth as reported in the New York Times:

‘The London baths are crowded; each village pond and running stream contains youthful worshippers at the shrine of Webb and even along the banks of the river, regardless of the terrors of the Thames police, swarms of naked urchins ply their limbs, each probably determined that he one day will be another Captain Webb.’

Boys inspired by Webb sparked a shift in British culture that change swimming from an animated, outdoor, playful activity, mostly enjoyed by working class boys, into a very competitive sport, confined predominantly to man-made indoor pools. Read the history of British Swimming and discover our rich heritage.

The youngest person to swim the channel is  Thomas Gregory (UK) – in 1988 at 11 years 330 days, the oldest, Roger Allsopp (UK) – in 2011 at 70 years and four months.

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Free swimming Bradford

The chart above shows the steep rise in swimming popularity as a result of the government’s free swimming program as reflected in swimming pool attendances in Bradford.

Similar statistics countrywide show a degree of success in getting firstly those over 60 and later those under 16 active and into the water.

Despite the steep increase in attendance figures peaking in 2009-10, the economic slump led to austerity measures and funding cuts. The goal of free swimming for all by the time of the Olympics in 2012 disappeared down the plughole as funding cuts saw an end to free swimming sessions and led to pool closures, timetable adjustments, reduced opening hours and efficiency savings. The statistics show swimming attendance figures have dropped well below those achieved prior to the government’s intervention, so why the steep drop in attendance figures?

Former Sports Minister and Bradford South MP Gerry Sutcliffe (Lab) is reported in the Telegraph and Argus as saying:  “A lot of this drop is down to the Government cancelling the free swimming programme and pools being closed in Bradford… I called on the Council not to close any pools until they built some. A review done last year on sports facilities highlighted the need for new swimming pools. These are disappointing figures and swimming is something families can do together.”

Further budget cuts paint a bleak picture for the future of British swimming. Although children are being encouraged to learn how to swim, swimming is becoming an extravagance many families cannot afford. Despite the concessions available it is difficult for parents to justify the expense of family swimming, and especially so when the activity was formally free.

Wild swimming is available for free throughout the country and continues to grow in popularity.

Boy of ten caught wild swimming

Christmas day sea swimming

Data released to the Telegraph & Argus under Freedom of Information rules shows a drop over the last five years – from 1,172,119 visitors in 2007-08 and a high of 1,268,092 in 2009-10 at the height of the programme offering free swimming for children and pensioners, to a low of 1,113,981 in 2011-12. More…

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