Team GB’s swimming team is unlikely to reflect the diversity of Great Britain and Northern Ireland until the 2052 Olympic Games at the earliest, the co-founder of the Black Swimming Association (BSA) and Palamedes PR client has warned.
Ed Accura, who is also the producer of the Blacks Can’t Swim series of documentaries on SKY and Amazon Prime, hit the headlines this week after warning that white, middle-class athletes will continue to dominate the squad for at least another 30 years because of deep-rooted cultural and economic barriers that prevent youngsters from working class minority backgrounds from accessing the sport.
Research suggests that less than five per cent of Black and Asian children are currently regular swimmers, and fewer still compete at regional, county, or national level.
But the long-standing stereotype that minority ethnic groups have ‘heavier bones’ and are
less buoyant than white people, though untrue, is also to blame for low participation.
Others view swimming as a “privileged white pursuit” and, with few high-profile role models for inspiration, turn to land-based sports like football and running that are both cheaper and more ethnically diverse.
Ed Accura, above, who is also the producer of the Blacks Can’t Swim series of documentaries on SKY and Amazon Prime, only learnt to swim himself four years ago.
While the number of participants is rising, it could take decades before the African, Caribbean, and Asian communities are meaningfully represented at commonwealth, world, or Olympic level, he added.
Accura, 56, who himself only learned to swim four years ago, said the statistics have life-threatening implications.
He said Black children are three times more likely to drown than white children, and that lives will be lost this summer unless priorities are heightened, costs are driven down and society makes it easier for ethnic minorities to learn to swim.
Speaking at the launch of his new book, A Visual Journey of Blacks Can’t Swim, which chronicles Accura’s own swimming journey and has been released to coincide with the third anniversary of the Black Swimming Association’s foundation, he said: “Black and minority ethnic athletes have long been at the heart of Team GB’s Olympic achievements, but unfortunately this is not the case with swimming.
“The national swimming squad has and will continue to suffer from an ethnicity gap until such a time that the disparity between young white children and young African, Caribbean and Asian swimmers is closed.
“At present, only a fraction of African, Caribbean, and Asian children can swim and, despite the inroads we are making as an organisation, that figure is unlikely to rise spectacularly in anything less than a generation given the socio-economic barriers that young people in these communities still face.
“With such low numbers of African, Caribbean, and Asian swimmers, it is no surprise that there are so few role models emerging onto the world competitive stage. This, in turn, creates a vicious cycle where young people have no heroes in the sport to emulate, and little incentive to learn in the first place.
“It will in my personal view take many years to break this cycle so we may not expect to see a truly diverse British swimming team until the 2052 Olympics, or even longer.”