I don't know much about the Olympics, or swimming. All I know is my local swimming baths closed down recently. Now, if I wanted to go swimming, I'd have to drive rather than walk, to the nearest baths, which are, rather bizarrely, located in a school.
This is the way of things with New Labour. The thing that was working closes down. It gets replaced by something big and shiny about two miles away, which you have to drive to (or take the privatised monopoly buses, which cost a fortune and stop running at about 10.30am, if you're lucky). That new big shiny thing has probably been built with PFI - on the downside, the council are in hock to a private company for years, who have charged ridiculously high prices; on the upside, you do have something nice and shiny; and, if you are a shareholder of that private company, it's trebles all round.
It still bemuses me that New Labour are accused by their enemies of being 'stalinist' or even 'socialist'. Do people know what these words really mean? You wait till polyclinics come in - and they will. After that? Voucher schools. But that's just a dream for New Labour and Cameron's Tories - for now.
Anyway, on the subject of the Olympics and swimming pools I saw this today on the Beeb:
FREE SWIMMING TO BE 2012 LEGACY
which is the bog-standard churnalism that's increasingly present on the corporation's website. I say that because there's no mention of local swimming pools being closed down, the increased transport costs of getting to the new PFI polypools and so on. Too inconvenient. Too annoying. Would require research and/or journalistic skills.
Luckily, some journalists still do exist. Here's Martin Samuels in The Times almost exactly a year ago, actually asking questions and investigating things rather than unquestioningly reporting what the Government would like us to believe:
YOUR BRILLIANT OLYMPIC LEGACY: THE LOCAL POOL'S CLOSED
Samuels explains why funding in London will be particularly hit:
Olympic pools are scheduled to open in Leeds, Liverpool and Sunderland in the next two years but, in London, nothing, until the Aquatics Centre is built for 2012. The explanation is simple. To make the Olympic budget work, £2.2 billion has been taken from lottery funding. That is the reality of the London games. Big-ticket items constructed at the expense of grassroots sport. So, after the circus has left town, London will have one fantastic swimming pool based in Stratford, with a seating capacity of 2,500 – but not much else. The London Pools campaign identified nine facilities in the capital that closed last year and sixteen more that were under threat. In addition, 10 per cent of school pools had shut.
So the reality seems to be local swimming pools closing faster than ever before - school pools and council pools. Sure, PFI polypools and massive show-pools are opening up - but to get to them you'll have to drive or get the privatised bus. Yes you could walk or jog, and that's exercise in itself, but in winter? What was wrong with having swimming pools close to where people lived? Didn't that kind of make sense? Yes, older people have free swimming - but they must travel much further to get there in the first place.
Meanwhile, your local swimming pool has probably been sold off to a property developer and will become 'an exceptional residential development' that looks exactly the same as every other cookie-cutter clone home where you live.
One day, though, you might be able to get in to your distant PFI pool for free. That's a comfort, isn't it?