Swimming lessons in the energy crisis: And now it’s getting cold

Swimming lessons in the energy crisis

And now it’s getting cold

Sun 09/11/22 | 12:14 | Of Anna Bordel

Picture: dpa / Patrick La Roque

For the last two years they have not existed: swimming lessons in the halls of Berlin’s swimming halls. It starts again this winter – albeit in colder water due to the gas crisis. There are still many interested children. By Anna Bordel

In Stadtbad Schöneberg, the hot tub, paddling pool, water slide and outdoor pool remain closed until further notice. In other swimming pools, such as in Lankwitz and at Spreewaldplatz, such “attractions”, as stated on the website of Berliner Bäderbetriebe (BBB), cannot be offered for the time being. The reason for this is the Senate’s energy-saving measures, as the spokeswoman for the pool companies, Claudia Blankennagel, said in response to questions from rbb.

The indoor pools open as usual in autumn, but the pools are only heated to 26 degrees. It is between two and four degrees less than during normal operation. Since all pools in some swimming pools, such as in Schöneberg, are connected to the same water circuit, individual pools cannot be heated separately, according to the pool companies. “26 degrees – it’s not cold. It’s a matter of type whether you like it or not. If you swim regularly, 26 degrees is definitely ok for you,” says spokeswoman Blankennagel. For small children, it is still so cold that, at least in Schöneberg, it is not possible to splash around for the time being.

Learning to swim is in no way made easier by colder water temperatures – on the contrary.

Manuel Kopitz, CEO of the Berlin Swimming Federation

Learning to swim doesn’t get any easier in cold water

Manuel Kopitz, CEO of the Berlin Swimming Association, sees things differently. “26 degrees sounds relatively warm, but it’s cold even for a competitive athlete.” The colder water temperature is also a hindrance for children, Kopitz says. Children don’t move all the time in swimming lessons, things have to be explained to them, they have to wait their turn. “Learning to swim is in no way made easier by colder water temperatures – quite the opposite,” says Kopitz.

In swimming lessons, a lot depends on the swimming teacher. “The coach must observe the children. There are physical characteristics that indicate hypothermia: blue lips, shivering, especially in children who have little subcutaneous fat tissue,” says Kopitz. You can make sure to keep the children busy a little more. If that doesn’t work anymore, send them in a hot shower to warm them up again. “But once they’ve had a hot shower, it’s very difficult to get them back into the cold water,” says Kopitz.

The non-swimmer quota has more than doubled

There are especially many children who want to learn to swim at the moment. According to the Senate’s education department, the number of non-swimmers among children in Berlin before the pandemic was less than 17 percent, compared to 35 percent last April. In the past two winters, due to the pandemic, there has been almost no opportunity to participate in a swimming course.

There were also fewer people interested in swimming in the swimming clubs. “We lost 17 percent of members due to the corona pandemic, including a particularly large number of young members. Only one federal state lost more seats,” says Martin Kopitz from the Berlin Swimming Association. It has been increasing again for a few months, but it is still far from the level it was before. “It can therefore be assumed that many children have not learned to swim in recent years because we did not have a normal run,” said Kopitz.

Fewer courses due to teacher shortages

Not only is the cold water in the way of the swimming course, the range of courses offered by the Berlin baths is also not back to the pre-pandemic level. “Swimming lessons are being offered again, but not as many as before the pandemic,” Blankennagel said from the baths. This is primarily due to the lack of swimming instructors. “During the Corona period, the pool companies did not offer any courses, and during this time the swimming instructors from external service providers looked for other jobs. Now we have problems getting the offer back to the old strength.” According to Blankennagel, 50 to 60 percent of the courses can currently be offered. On 20 and 21 September, the online portals of the Berlin baths will be activated, through which courses can be booked – as long as there are places available.

Even in the swimming clubs, there is not enough capacity to cover the high demand. “The demand for swimming courses is always very high. The waiting lists in the clubs are very full, well over 100 children are on the clubs’ lists,” says Kopitz. According to him, this is not due to a lack of teachers, but to the limited water surface and the limited number of swimming pools.

Wetsuit as a quick fix?

Babies and toddlers don’t need to splash everywhere this winter. In the Europasportpark swimming and diving hall in Prenzlauer Berg, babies can continue to bathe in the heat because the pool is connected to the circuit of the therapy pool there, where, according to Blankennagel, it is still 32 degrees.

However, this makes this the swimming pool with the highest energy consumption in the city: 10.3 million kilowatt hours are consumed per year, as the Senate and bathing companies announced in response to a parliamentary request from the CDU. According to the Senate, the small children’s pool in Monbijoupark uses the least amount of energy with 63,000 kilowatt hours. According to the Senate, it will be an important point in the next few years to renovate the pools so that less energy is required. Solar energy systems are already being used on the roofs of the outdoor pools in Mariendorf, Kreuzberg, Pankow, Spandau Süd and Gropiusstadt.

A short-term solution for autumn and winter for those interested in swimming could be the wetsuit for the time being. “I’ve now bought one,” says Blankennagel, “because I get cold easily.” This has been used for a long time on swimming courses for children, and now a warm bathing suit is probably also becoming more widespread among adults.

Broadcast: rbb24 Inforadio, 11 August 2022, at 10:00 a.m

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