This week Vienna, Austria’s government launched “Vienna Swims!” a summer program that will provide swimming lessons to kids. In Austria, children typically learn to swim at school, but lessons haven’t been available for the last three years because the the COVID-19 pandemic forced pool closures.
This program aims to compensate kids for that missed opportunity. Any child who attended third grade in the last three years is eligible for the 10-day intensive course. The course will run across the city’s public pools during the summer holidays.
The course costs only €25, about $27 dollars, and lower-income families will be exempt from paying the fee.
In their press release announcing the program, Deputy Mayor Christoph Wiederkehr noted that the city expects over 1,100 children to take advantage of the opportunity. The program’s goal is to prevent drowning and other water-related accidents. Vera Futter-Mehringer, President of the Vienna State Swimming Association, said that in addition to learning a life-saving skill, teaching kids to swim allows them “to practice it as a sport until old age.”
Additionally, all children who attended school during the pandemic will receive six free entries to a public pool anytime between July and September. By providing these free passes, the city hopes to attract new families to public pools and create new returning customers.
Water-based activities have long been a part of Viennese culture. Public baths have a 2,000 year history in the city. The city of Vienna operates 22 public pools, and there are other private and federal baths easily accessible as well. According to the City of Vienna’s Statistical Yearbook, 4.5 million people used a public swimming pool in 2019.
By launching “Vienna Swims!” the city is continuing that legacy and working to make up for opportunities lost in the pandemic.