'Swimming Across Lake Balaton', By Jonathan Knott, British Ambassador To Hungary

  • 1 Aug 2013 9:55 AM
'Swimming Across Lake Balaton', By Jonathan Knott, British Ambassador To Hungary
I had a brilliant weekend. I did the Lake Balaton Cross Swim. That’s a 5.2 km swim across the biggest freshwater lake in Central Europe. It was so rewarding and so much fun. The organisers estimate that some 7700 people did the swim in the glorious sunshine. It was a bit more than a fun-swim, given the distance. But the atmosphere before the start and at the finish was carnival – music playing, picnics everywhere.

There were TV crews at the beginning and the end too, capturing the joy of the day. But the real experience of the day was in the water. Swimming with so many people, all happy and keen to help each other. And hearing the cheers of the people on the boats which lined the course. It was physically exhausting but such a boost for the spirit.

I did the swim for two reasons. First I wanted to take part in one of the great modern Hungarian traditions – and see if I could still take on this sort of challenge. But second, and more importantly, I wanted to support the Hungarian Lifesaving Association.

These are the people who keep the beaches of Balaton safe for holidaymakers and who patrol other Hungarian popular waterways. I’ve supported Lifesavers in Britain for many years and I wanted to do the same here. Especially after I spent a day with them on Balaton and saw the fantastic work they do: they are the lake’s primary emergency service. And on the day I visited they were inspirational as they saved a man who, I suspect, but for them would not have survived.

So I invited friends and colleagues to sponsor my swim, promising to split what I raised between British and Hungarian lifesavers. And I’m really pleased that I managed to raise some 2 million forint in total (about £7K). It’s not a fortune, but I hope it can make a difference. I also hope that by publicizing the work the Lifesavers do a few more people will decide to support them.

Finally I want to offer thanks to several people who helped me meet the challenges of the swim. To the great Éva Risztov for setting me up with an excellent training programme which helped me not just finish the course, but to do it in 2 hours 4 minutes – well under the time I had hoped for. To the organisers of the Balaton Swim who were so kind to me on the day and who put together a sensational day for everyone. To staff of the Komjadi pool where I have spent so many hours training over the last few months. And to my wife for her patience while I’ve been at Komjadi.

Source: British Embassy Budapest

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