BY TOBY PORTER
Olympic gold medal winner and the man who holds the record for the youngest-ever swimming of the English Channel have helped a baths celebrate its 80th birthday.
Duncan Goodhew, who won gold in the breaststroke at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, was joined by Tom Gregory, who swam 32 miles from France to England aged 11, 30 years ago at the party at Charlton Lido, Hornfair Park on Monday.
Channel swimmer Tom, author of A Boy in the Water, had trained at Charlton Lido in preparation for his epic, record-breaking swim.
Celebrations included an open mic session for local residents to talk about their memories and experiences of using the lido, a memory wall featuring photos of the lido through the decades, and 1930s themed music courtesy of the Greenwich Concert Band and the Marching Band of the 56th Battalion RAFAC.
One hundred people attended and guests were treated to a champagne reception and barbecue. The lido was the last municipal lido to be built in London, completed just before the start of the Second World War.
It was first opened to the public on May 6, 1939 by the then mayor of Greenwich. It fell into disrepair and was closed between 2004 and 2012 but re-opened by charitable social enterprise GLL in partnership with Greenwich council and Sport England, the London Marathon Trust and The Amateur Swimming Association.
A massive £5 million refurbishment included a range of new health and fitness facility. And the lido now hosts a range of swimming lessons and courses and is the training venue for the Greenwich Royals Swimming Club.
GLL managing director Mark Sesnan, who took part in the London Marathon last month, said: “Seeing so many local people loving their lido makes me very proud that we did the right thing bringing it back into public use. “We are a not-for-profit social enterprise, which means we can invest our surpluses into our facilities and programmes.
“Last year was our best ever summer at Charlton Lido, with visitor numbers buoyed by the hot weather. “We are preparing for another busy season and look forward to welcoming new and existing customers once more.”
Duncan Goodhew MBE joked with Tom Gregory that the cross Channel swimmer’s achievement made his Olympic swim look like ‘Swimming to the taps and back’.
Goodhew added: “Lidos are increasingly popular and held in high regard by local communities. “There’s something magical about swimming in a lido when you get the sunlight refracting into little rainbows under the water.
“Charlton Lido is a great venue and it’s great to see the community supporting it over the years.”
Rosemary Leeke, of The Friends of Charlton Lido, said: “Charlton Lido has a very loyal – and growing – community of swimmers who value not just the fantastic pool itself but the many friendships that are made and sustained there. It’s great to see more people discovering the Lido every year and joining the band of year-round regulars.
“I’ve personally benefited massively from the Swim Doctor programme which now provides six weekly drop-in sessions for swimmers of all abilities, and I know there are many others who’d say the same and who never willingly miss a session.”