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Games offer ‘amazing opportunity’ to make a difference to lives of youngsters

The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games offers an ‘amazing opportunity’ to help make a difference to the lives of youngsters in the West Midlands and across the country.

Swim England is aiming to use the eagerly-anticipated Games, which begin on Thursday 28 July, to inspire people to learn how to swim, join a club and enjoy a life long love of water.

George Wood, Swim England sport development director, believes the performances of swimmers and divers representing Team England at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre can be a catalyst to engage more people into aquatic sports.

More importantly, he hopes the Games will help address worrying figures which show that 42 per cent of children leave primary school in Sandwell unable to swim the required 25m unaided.

A 48-strong team of swimmers begin their Commonwealth Games campaign on Friday 29 July in the newly-constructed Sandwell Aquatics Centre, with the divers beginning their quest for glory on Thursday 4 August.

George hopes the athletes can build on the success they achieved at the rearranged Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games last year and encourage youngsters to follow in their footsteps.

He said: “I hope a home Commonwealth Games will inspire a generation. 

“The ability to be a high-performing team and embed that fantastic performance from Tokyo and take it a step further as an England team is going to be great for getting people to take notice of our sports.

“Whether it’s getting into the water for the first time, learning to swim or joining one of our clubs, the inspiration of the Games can make a difference to kids’ lives and is an amazing opportunity for us at Swim England and the nation.

“We know that when kids leave primary school at key stage two, everyone should be able to swim and rescue themselves.

“In the Black Country, about 50 per cent of kids can rescue themselves safely and under 60 per cent of them can swim 25m.

Inspiration of the Games

“We need to change that.

“Swimming is so much more than a sport. It’s also a life skill, it’s a drowning prevention tool.

“We’re really excited about working with our partners to make a difference here, using the inspiration of the Games and putting on programmes and activities to make sure we really do get every child learning to swim.”

George also hailed the legacy which is being created by the West Midlands Diving Strategy.

“Diving is a wonderful sport,” he said. “I’m excited about what the England team can do and very much hope we can exceed what we did at the Gold Coast 2018 Games.

“Suddenly we have a new facility in the West Midlands. We have not had a 10m platform in the West Midlands for some time.

“That means we are building a whole diving legacy and can inspire kids to get into the water and have a go at something different and emulate the likes of Matty Lee, Jack Laugher, Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix and the rest of the team.”

To find out more about how to join an aquatics club near you, visit discover.swimming.org.