Big Splash launches in London

The Big Splash was officially launched at the House of Commons on Thursday, where five-time Olympic gold medallist Ian Thorpe and Sport Minister Hugh Robertson honoured members of the public as British Swimming's Big Splash heroes.

The BBC is working with the national governing body, British Swimming, to launch the Big Splash - a project designed to inspire the UK to swim in the build-up to the 2012 Olympics.

The Big Splash heroes hailed from around the UK and each have performed inspirational feats, ranging from heroic life-savers to those who learned to swim against the odds.

Some the BBC's biggest stars, including Gary Lineker, Graham Norton, Matt Baker and Gabby Logan are backing the Big Splash, while the launch event was hosted by Blue Peter presenter Andy Akinwolere, who is facing his own swimming challenge to overcome his fear of water.

Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport said: "The Big Splash is part of the BBC's commitment to the 2012 legacy by working with British Swimming to make the nation healthier, safer, fitter and more active ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

"Throughout the year the BBC will highlight swimming as an important life-skill and gateway to a host of fun activities through a range of well known programmes across TV, radio and online."

Meanwhile, British Swimming is working with local swimming pools to offer a range of activities and resources to help get the nation swimming.

About 13 million people in Britain swim regularly, making it the biggest participation sport in the country.

But despite these positive figures there are 400 incidents of drowning per year, one in five adults cannot swim and one in five children leave primary school without being able to swim.

Swimming is one of the most accessible forms of exercise and can be done by anyone regardless of their age, weight, background or ability, alone or with their family and friends. It has huge health and well-being benefits and is a skill that can save lives.

Over 500 pools have signed up to the campaign and together with British Swimming are offering a wide range of exciting Big Splash activities and resources, including the website which has a pool finder.

Other activities include, improver lesson sessions at your local pool, games for all the family and 'feel the burn' fitness tips.

British Swimming chief executive David Sparkes said: "We are delighted to be working with the BBC on the Big Splash, on what we believe is one of the biggest campaigns in the country to encourage more people to swim more often.

"The Big Splash is part of our ongoing drive to increase the participation in swimming. It's got fantastic health benefits and it saves lives.

"Working with the pools and the BBC, we expect to see many more people getting active as we move towards the greatest sporting event in the world, the Olympic Games, coming to London next year."

Swimming's double Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington has signed up to the support the Big Splash and she said: "Swimming is my life but just getting into the pool a couple of times a week is a really great way of getting active and staying healthy.

"I'm right behind anything that encourages people to take the plunge and swim more often."

On Sunday, as part of the official Big Splash launch, the BBC will broadcast live from the British Gas Great Salford Swimexternal-link - one of the largest mass participation swimming events held in Great Britain.

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