The professionals of the sports halls mobilize regularly, these last months, to express their distress vis-a-vis the closing of their structures, and their fears as regards public health whereas a sedentary lifestyle does not bode well for the physical state and psychological effects of the French. Professionals from another sector are now leaving their reserve, alerting to the risks generated by the curtain drawn on their establishments: swimming pools.
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Beyond the two confinements and then the restrictions imposed, the swimming pools have been indeed closed to the general public since January 15. “A whole generation of kids no longer has access to school practice, where we learn to swim. Not only them, but also all college students who already know how to swim but need to practice so as not to lose their skills. The coming summer can already be classified as high risk ”, warns Axel Lamotte Deputy Secretary General of the National Professional Union of Lifeguards (SNPMNS).
Risks for an entire age group
For years, the summer reports on the drowning front have not been good. All the professionals fear the worst for the months to come, with 800,000 children who have not been able to benefit from the usual school training. The SNPMNS sounded the alarm at the end of February in a letter addressed to the Minister of Sports. No answer for the moment.
“For two years, we have been practicing mass internships in Seine-Saint-Denis where nearly one in two young people cannot swim when they arrive at college, continues Axel Lamotte. These young people have become familiar with the water, but without regularity. These efforts are in vain. They have learned not to fear the element, but still do not master it. Suddenly, emboldened, they risk even more this summer. The swimming pools must be reopened urgently, at least for school children. “ The demand is the same on the side of Snep-FSU, the main union of sports teachers.
The French Swimming Federation (FFN) is on the same line. “We have challenged the ministry three times for a reopening, and with arguments, assures Patrick Pérez, deputy treasurer and marketing and communication manager of the FFN. First, the chlorine is very virucidal, then the protocols can be very strict as shown by the fact that no cluster was to be deplored in the opening phases. The swimming pools are not to be stored with the other covered sports equipment. To deprive yourself of this public health tool, at a time when obesity is on the rise and drowning has been a huge problem for years, is a major mistake. “
A program of removable basins
The FFN also points to future sporting difficulties, even if the high level can continue to train. “For our athletes who are preparing for Tokyo, no worries, of course, continues Patrick Pérez. On the other hand, we undermine certain specialties such as artistic swimming where all swimmers are not necessarily on the radars for Paris 2024. And beyond the high level, it is cataclysmic for the whole discipline: we risk to have a whole generation which, for lack of swimming pools, is not going to persevere and can switch to other sports. “
To respond to the emergency, the Minister Delegate, Roxana Maracineanu, mentioned in the daily The Parisian the launch of a deployment plan for “Learning pools of 4 meters by 8 in schools and gymnasiums, in agreement with the rectorates”. The ministry has a budget of 15 million euros for this program, and expects the installation of around 800 basins. Roxana Maracineanu also intends to connect lifeguards and owners of private swimming pools (3 million in France) for this summer to provide lessons.
Two projects that make Axel Lamotte jump: “Gym floors are not suitable, and why spend money there rather than reopening the existing pools?” As for private pools, there should be guarantees on the quality of the water in particular. It all seems very complicated to me. “
In 2018, the survey carried out every three years by Public Health France revealed a 30% increase in drownings compared to 2015. The figure then struck the former world swimming champion Roxana Maracineanu, newly appointed Minister of Sports. Hence the launch of the “aquatic ease” plan in April 2019, intended to facilitate familiarization with water from an early age. A program very disturbed for a year by the Covid-19. Last summer, between the 1er June and end of August, the consequences of the pandemic, in particular the limitations of access to the beaches and the closing of the swimming pools until June 20, made it possible to note a decrease of 12% of the visits to the emergencies for drowning compared to the two years previous ones. But during the peak in frequentation of aquatic spaces, in August, the figure increased by 5% compared to 2018 and 2019, and even by 22% over the heatwave period between August 6 and August 13.