Leading figures from across the aquatic community were joined by industry experts for an innovative Energetics Webinar which focused on identifying strategies to lessen the impact of rising energy prices on water-related sports facilities in Europe.
The event, on 13 February, was devised in response to growing fears of the long-term impact the closure of further swimming pools will have on populations across the continent.
Many facilities which were forced to shut as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic were unable to reopen and the rising cost of energy – as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – has seen further venue closures throughout Europe.
The webinar, which was hosted by EPSI (European Platform for Sport Innovation) co-Executive Director Alberto Bichi, in conjunction with LEN, saw European Aquatics President Antonio Silva delivered a stark opening speech.
“LEN believes that the closure of these facilities has direct consequences on all European population from all socio-economic strata and of course in aquatic development,” he stated. “That has become more relevant when each year we see the number of drownings keeps increasing.”
World Aquatics CEO Brent Nowicki further endorsed this view in a powerful message.
“World Aquatics are more than just about elite sport,” he said. “We’re not talking about the 1% we’re talking about the 99% who use our pools for means of an essential life skill.
“The residual impact (of losing further venues) is serious.”
After Mary McMorrow – Swim Ireland Director of Operations – delved into some of the specific facts and stats around potential European venue losses, the webinar attendees gained insights from experts such as EPSI co-executive director Rene Wijlens who has overseen the creation of sustainable sports facilities throughout continent.
Fluidra marketing manager Juanjo Gomez discussed new product and technological advancements which could potentially be utilised to enhance energy-use efficiency and improve heat retention.
The session also explored potential funding support opportunities such as the LIFE programme, detailed by EU Funding Development Engineer Joseph Bin Sun, and REPowerEU, which was expertly explained by Nathalie Van der Velde.
There were also key speeches from Pedro Morouço from the Portugese Swimming Federation who explained their SwimSense project, and Rainer Braun, managing partner of Aquarena, who revealed energy saving techniques based on experiences with other venues.
Also contributing important discussion points was Royal Dutch Swimming Federation President Hayke Veldman, who revealed how his organisation successfully lobbied the government in the Netherlands and secured funding support.
In summary EPSI co-Executive Director Alberto Bichi thanked the contributors and highlighted the EU’s Sport Innovation Summit’ on 30 May as a key date for future discussions, debate and fact-finding.
In his conclusive remarks LEN President Silva stated the webinar was just the “first step” in a “collaborative” journey which will see the consolidation of the learning points from this initial meeting, before expanding the project concept and lobbying, in the months ahead.
“We all have a collective obligation to provide a place for every citizen to learn how to swim,” he said. “The absence of this practice can lead to the worst tragedies.
“LEN is willing to coordinate and cooperate with European governments and national federations, in a way to prevent the closure of pools, either public or private, helping in the implementation of European financing programs.
President Silva continued; “Thank you for the organisation of this webinar and the speakers.
“It was really impressive the way the ideas as well as solutions were presented thanks to participants not only European but all over the world.”