FINA, the international governing body for swimming, plans to run a series of mass participation open water swimming events alongside its elite World Cup series in 2016.
The FINA World Cup is a global series of 10km marathon swims that runs each year from roughly February to October. There were 10 races in 2015 and currently seven on the calendar for 2016.
The proposal from FINA is for each organiser of a World Cup event to host a mass participation swim in advance of the elite race to allow regular swimmers the opportunity to swim at the same location and then watch the elite race. The exact race and course configurations are still being finalised but mass participation swimmers will typically complete swims of up to 2.5km.
According to FINA, the motivations behind the series are:
- Increasing the participation in open water swimming events
- Increasing the revenue for the event organisers
- Raising the profile of the elite race
- Providing an opportunity for additional sponsors
Chillswim founder Colin Hill has been involved in the development of the series through his role as FINA Open Water Swimming Events Mass Participation Project Director says that open water swimming is relatively undeveloped in some of the event locations and the new series is an opportunity to change that.
“The series is all about promoting swimming both as a participatory and spectator sport,” he says. “We hope people will come along and swim and then stay around and watch the elites, who are some of the most accomplished athletes in the world.”
Hill adds that in Hong Kong there is a precedent for these mass participation events with the popular Cross Harbour Swim, which is already well established. At the other events the expectation for the first year is that the events will mainly attract local swimmers. However, the hope is that these swims will develop an international appeal in future years.
The events in year one are:
- Patagones-Viedma (ARG) – February 6
- Abu Dhabi (UAE) – February 27
- Balatonfured (HUN) – June 18
- Lac St Jean (CAN) – July 23
- Lac Megantic (CAN) – August 12
- Chun’an (CHN) – October 9
- Hong Kong (HKG) – October 16