Britain Swims Free
Free swimming for all by 2012 pledges British Government. This is the first of a number of initiatives that will be rolled out to both improve the general health of an increasingly obese british population and sporting excellence in terms of Olympic and other international sports events. I feel it has to be the way forward particularly in terms of health but as the old saying almost goes 'You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it swim'
The over-60s and children up to the age of 16 will be the first to enjoy free entry to council-run swimming pools, under Government plans to be announced.
Local authorities are to be invited to apply to a £130 million fund over the next two years, to allow them to offer free swimming to older people in their area.
Additional funds will be made available through a "challenge fund" to extend the offer to under-16s as well.
And by 2012, Andy Burnham, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, will say, ministers hope that free swimming in council swimming pools will be offered to all, regardless of age.
More funding will be available for councils to refurbish pools, many of which date back to the Victorian era.
The announcement is being made as part of the Olympic Legacy Action Plan, which is unveiled today[fri] and which spells out the Government's plans to meet the target of getting two million more people involved in sport by the 2012 London games.
At present, 50 per cent of us take part in no sporting activity at all, and the Government believes that swimming is one of the most accessible ways for people, and particularly the elderly, to get fit.
Mr Burnham said: "Swimming has universal appeal for all ages and provides the opportunities for families to participate in healthy activity together.
"Our aim is to help as many areas as possible remove charges and provide some kind of free swimming proposition.
"All the evidence shows that it removes barriers to those who are inactive. It is for local authorities to decide just how far they want to go.''
While councils would not be required by law to offer free swimming, the costs would be picked up by central government, giving them every incentive to do so.
Some authorities already offer children and OAPs free entry to the 1,600 pools owned by local authorities across England at certain times of the day.
Extending free swimming to all over-60s would give around 10 million people access to council facilities.
A spokesman for the Department said: "Swimming is a great sport because anyone can do it, even people with creaky bones.
"Free swimming will be particularly rejuvenating to older people, which is why they are being given access first.
"But the ambition is that as a long-term goal, but not later than 2012, public pools around the country will free to all."
Although it will be up to councils to decide when they begin to offer free swimming, the funds are likely to be made available by this autumn, with pools opening their doors to the over-60s before the end of the year.
The Plan will also involve a major shake-up in the way grass-roots sport is funded, with the streamlining of the current spending body, Sport England.
Meanwhile, Gordon Brown has spoken of his disappointment that no British teams will be at the Euro 2008 tournament.
He told Sky Sports: "Britain should always be competitive in every world sporting event.''