Councilor Mark Winnington of Staffordshire County Council issued the warning fearing that some may be inspired by the open water swimming events at the Olympics. According to This is Stratfordshire he said: “The water could be inviting, but also deadly.” It is true as he says that during Olympic competitions “…crews follow them every step of the way.” (During training, much less supervision is necessary, especially as there is no need for the camera crews to document every stroke.) By contrast he states: “This is completely different from people just deciding to go for a swim on a warm sunny day. Open water can be very deep and very cold and even the most experienced of swimmers can find themselves struggling.”
This is not the opinion of a growing number of wild swimmers. The experience of swimming in rivers and lakes can in fact do much to build confidence, encourage participation in sport and may well fulfill in part the aim of the Olympics to ‘Inspire a generation’.
Of course there are risks; just as those inspired to run will need to cross busy roads, those inspired to cycle will need to display a little road sense, and just the same, those inspired to swim will need to display common sense. Do we want to keep athletes in doors? Runners on tread mills, cyclists at spin classes and swimmers in swimming pools? The fact that swimming has been singled out says a lot about British cultural attitudes towards open water swimming and reveals an underlining prejudice towards swimming in the wild or as it is now known: Wild Swimming.