Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Unsportsman-like comments

During my daily commute from north to south-east London this morning, I read in the Metro freesheet that Australia's Olympics chief John Coates's ungracious response to the British swimmer Rebecca Adlington's 400m freestyle gold medal was to say, "Great Britain seems to be getting there, for a country that has few pools and not much soap." Clearly we can put one half of that down to catty sour grapes, but the other half has an unfortunate ring of truth to it. With the UK population (60,587,300) being three times that of Australia (21,370,000), Metro's comment that, "Britain has 22 Olympic-sized pools, compared with Australia's 47," would be bad enough if it were true, but sadly it's not.

The UK currently has only five pools that are the full 50 x 25m Olympic standard - which allows for ten 2½-metres lanes, with only the middle eight being used in competitions - with three more currently under construction. There are a further twenty other 50-metre venues with sub-25-metre widths (nine planned or under construction), but not all open to the public, as they include the army's pool at Aldershot, and one at a private school (the one which - unsurprisingly - Duncan Goodhew went to). Three of these pools are currently under threat of demolition, and not all will be replaced with comparable new facilities.

In comparison, Australia has some 1,500 50-metre pools, and in many towns and cities the gripe is actually that they have "too few," not that - as in the UK - that they have none at all! Of this impressive total, 47 are indeed the full 50 x 25m Olympic standard. To turn these numbers around, if the UK had the same population:pool ratio as Australia, we would have 133 Olympic standard venues, and 4,119 other 50m pools, while if Australia had ours, they would have just two and seven respectively!

Of course, many people are apt to ask why 50-metre pools are so necessary. The reality is that while our plethora of 25m and occasionally 33.3m pools are adequate up to a point, the discipline of swimming in a 50-metre tank is quite different, and vital for competition training. After all, we would not expect our runners to excel if they could only practice on half-size tracks, so why should be expect world-class swimmers when we have so few suitable venues? This makes the success of Adlington and all her past, present and - hopefully - future team-mates all the more remarkable.

Labels:

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home