London's legacy luxuries face the chop
One of my favourite quotes of recent years is Arsene Wenger's bemused reaction to the emergence of Britain as a swimming power at the 2008 Olympics.
"I didn't know the British were good at swimming," Wenger said after Rebecca Adlington led Team GB's swimmers to six medals in Beijing. "I've been in this country for 12 years and haven't seen a pool."
Wenger's powers of observation are not his strong point - he has not seen a foul by an Arsenal player since arriving in London - but he could be forgiven for missing Britain's swimming facilities, they are few and far between compared to his native France.
Which is why last week's news that the government was axing a scheme to provide free swimming for under-16s and over-60s was so disappointing: understandable, given the state of our finances, but disappointing.
Will this move hinder hopes of developing young stars to follow Adlington? Photo: Getty
It was also a very damp end for a scheme launched with such fanfare by former Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell in June 2008.
Back then this was just the beginning. Swimming would be free for all by the time of the London Olympics and a key plank in the much-trumpeted plan to use the 2012 Games as a tool to get Britain off the sofa and into sport.
The trumpeting continued last year, with ministers diving in to praise the scheme. Sir Terrence of Wogan was even moved to call it a "great idea than can only do good".
But countries in the red to the tune of £36,000 for every household in the land cannot afford do-gooding, particularly when most of the people who took advantage of the scheme apparently did not need subsidising.
Figures released by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport last week revealed that the initiative had paid for 18 million "free" swims during its first year but 83% of those aged over 60 and 73% of those under 16 said they would have gone swimming anyway and were happy to pay for it.
Did they mean it? I guess we'll never know. But I am sorry to see the end of an initiative that got 114,000 extra under-16s in a pool every month.
It was a point picked up on Monday by the Labour MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East, Paul Goggins.
Noting that the pools in his constituency had recorded a 56% increase in usage, Goggins asked: "Where's the value in cutting a scheme that helps to keep (youngsters) healthy?"
It is a good question, and to be fair to the new Sport and Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson he does not seem especially happy about it either.
"This is not a decision that gives me any pleasure," he said. "But with a crippling deficit to tackle and tough decisions to take, this has become a luxury we can no longer afford."
The real concern for him, however, is that this "tough decision" only saves his budget £5m.
Funding for the Free Swimming Programme comes from five different government departments (getting big-spenders like Education and Health to contribute to a sports initiative really was a good idea and should be repeated) and £100m of the total two-year allocation of £140m has already been spent.
So the saving here is more symbolic than real and his boss, Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt, needs real savings to appease the coalition government's austerity police, which is why nobody in the wider sports family thinks this will be the end of it.
The County Sports Partnerships sponsored by central government lost their £6m funding last week and £27m was knocked off London 2012's previously ring-fenced £9.3bn budget last month.
There are fears a more painful raid on the Games' contingency cash will be announced by Chancellor George Osborne in his Budget on Tuesday but I think that's unlikely. Not impossible, though.
What is far more likely is a big shake-up of how sport is funded in this country after 2012. Broadly speaking, there will be a lot less money from the government's own coffers, a bit more from the National Lottery and the difference will be made up by cuts in overheads and "waste".
At present there are three main bodies in this space: UK Sport, Sport England (with equivalents in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) and the Youth Sport Trust. UK Sport distributes money to elite sportsmen and women, Sport England is the agency for grassroots sport and the Youth Sport Trust deals with schools.
They all have different budgets and remits but there is some overlap, which is hardly surprising given the desire to create a "pathway" from amateur competition to the sharp end of elite sport.
Robertson, however, clearly sees some duplication of effort here.
In a speech earlier this month, the minister said he was pushing ahead with plans to bring the three bodies "under one roof while maintaining their separate roles and responsibilities".
At first I thought he meant this more metaphorically than literally - UK Sport and Sport England already have London offices (and they seem pretty full), while the Youth Sport Trust is an independent charity based in Loughborough.
But I am assured by people who know better that he does actually mean "under one roof".
Robertson thinks this move can happen in the medium term and it will save money. Money that can then be better targeted at meeting the government's inherited goal of getting one million people playing more sport by 2013.
The most recent figures show that just over seven million adults in England play some kind of sport (the definition is a little elastic) at least three times a week. That is up 700,000 since 2005 but still 800,000 short of the "million more" target that was set in 2007.
I have always felt that achieving London 2012's "participation legacy" would be a tall order, especially now that we cannot afford a relatively cheap and cheerful scheme like free swimming, but that does not mean we should not try.
Sport does not exist in a bubble so we are just going to have to do more with less. I wonder if Fabio Capello is willing to muck in too.