“Our vision is to see millions more young people — in Britain and across the world — participating in sport, and improving their lives as a result of that participation. And London has the power to make that happen.” Those were Prime Minister Tony Blair’s words in 2005, submitting a final bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games.
While recent data from Sport England shows that there are record numbers of adults who are active — 28.6 million people across the country regularly engage in at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week — the legacy of the 2012 Olympics, particularly in terms of sport-related infrastructure, has not stood the test of time.
In fact, council spending across the country on sports facilities has dropped by nearly two thirds in the last decade, largely as a result of government cuts to council budgets. Hundreds of leisure centres and fitness facilities have been forced to close, making access to fitness much more challenging.
The ELL boroughs have witnessed a loss of 187 fitness facilities since 2000, with Lewisham seeing the greatest losses – 63 closed facilities across the boroughs. These closures correspond with austerity measures taken by the councils.
Currently the ELL boroughs list a total of 32 leisure centres on their council websites; seven in Hackney, seven in Tower Hamlets, seven in Croydon, and 11 in Lewisham. However, five of Lewisham’s listed facilities are actually specific activities that take place in other listed facilities. For example, the Fifteenth Sydenham Scout Group is a weekly activity for children that takes place at The Bridge Leisure Centre. Moreover, Lewisham also lists St Dunstan’s College as a fitness facility; while this school appears to have state of the art fitness equipment, and a picturesque pool, it seems unlikely that anyone beyond the students and faculty of the school would have open access to these facilities.
The closure of these facilities can be devastating to the people who rely on them for fitness and a sense of community. The Haggerston Baths, which ‘temporarily’ closed in 2000, never to be reopened, left the Hackney community reeling. “The baths are something the locals remember fondly, ” Michaels Coysh, chair of the Save Haggerston Pool campaign previously told Eastlondonlines. “We remember swimming there as children, and taking our children as well. It is bitterly disappointing that it will no longer be a part of the community.”
All ELL councils were contacted to comment on the closures; only Croydon Council responded, with a spokesman emphasizing the desire for all citizens to have access to sport and leisure facilities, “to help them live happy and healthy lives.” The spokesman continued saying that the council had tried to mitigate closures by investing heavily in leisure facilities, including the £25m New Addington leisure and community centre and installing outdoor gyms across the borough.
The different layers of the embedded maps show fitness facilities that have been lost across the ELL boroughs, by location, and type of activity, as well as the location, and type of activities that are currently listed on the four council websites. You can also view the full map here.
This is day one of four in Eastlondonlines’ #WhatsStoppingYou series. Read the rest of the series here.