Scrutinising sporting facilities – and why it matters

Following my blog post about scrutinising swimming pools I’ve now got myself a website that I hope can act as a place where I can gather information about how good/bad swimming facilities are and how they can get better.

The Where Can We Swim website

I’ve started blogging on the site, but I’ve also put together a wiki – that still needs some work – where anyone can contribute to a debate over the condition of swimming pools in the city. I’m hoping I can also collect some basic information about swimming pools in the city and use this to compare it to other cities.

I’m interested in seeing how these two very simple tools can add to a debate over the provision of swimming in the run up to the 2012 London Olympics. It seems a long time ago now, but when the bid for the games was made its strongest suit was the sporting legacy it would leave behind. That wasn’t just in London; there was a commitment to improve facilities across the UK.

What’s this got to do with scrutiny?

It seems to me that we should all be involved in evaluating the sporting legacy that the Olympic Games in London is providing. In Birmingham, for example, there was a lot of noise about a project to build an Olympic-sized swimming pool for the city that would be in place before the 2012 games. That noise hasn’t amounted to much at the moment, except a lot of people who are unhappy about where it’s going and others, including the Amateur Swimming Association, who are peeved that it has been held up.

What did the Olympics ever do for us?

Imagine, for a moment, what will happen in two years’ time when the Olympics is all over. We’ll be left with a few gold medals and – perhaps – some nice new facilities. But will the legacy, trumpeted by the Olympic Games bid team, have been fulfilled? And who gets to decide whether or not it has been?

Since the facilities have been built for us, I reckon that we should be the ones who get to decide. But how on earth does one go about that? A big survey? A phone vote on Radio 5? And what, exactly, will be the point? If we’ve missed the boat and we don’t get the legacy we think we deserve and were promised who can we blame?

That’s why I think the idea of scrutinising the Olympic legacy ourselves (and when I say ‘ourselves’ I mean anyone who cares) is so crucial. How should the funding we’ve got be spent?  What is wrong with the facilities we have and how would you build new ones?

In a sense, bodies like the Amateur Swimming Association and our own politicians will do this anyway. But surely interested citizens, who care about the facilities they use, could become involved in that kind of scrutiny at a local level. Given that we’re about to get a new government and there’s been a financial crisis, there’s a lot to be vigilant about. That’s what I hope the Where Can We Swim site can start, in a very small way, to be about. It’s really just a very modest exploration of what happens when one person asks a question about one particular aspect of a local service.

3 comments

  1. stevieflow says:

    Really interesting – good work

    Last year we did a minor internal piece of work at the plings project (www.plings.net) to try and understand where the freeswimming was taking place, particularly for the under 16s:

    http://blogs.plings.net/index.php/2009/04/09/so-where-can-i-swim-for-free/

    which resulted in a quick demo:

    http://hatchery.substancecoop.net/swimfree/index.php

    (we seem to have a water blurry effect too – not intentional!)

    This might be of some use or help. Certainly, with the summer holidays coming up, we’d be really interested to explore accessing to information on swimming in more detail

  2. Andrew Brightwell says:

    Stevie,

    Great to hear from you on this. It looks like the work you’ve been doing is extremely similar to my interests – and very useful, in fact brilliant.

    I guess – but don’t know – that some of this provision will come under pressure with the new government (of whatever hue) so I’m very interested in working closely with you.

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