26 September 2009 – Alton Water, Suffolk
Thousands of swimmers from all over the UK are expected to take the plunge in one of Britain’s largest open water mass participation swims for the one mile event at Anglian Water’s popular water park, which is set against 600 acres of picture perfect Suffolk countryside.
The event is open to swimmers of all abilities from those who have only ever swum for fun in the pool through to Olympic champions. Elite swimmers will head the race, with celebrities, club swimmers and fun swimmers following in their waves.
The Great East Swim is part of Great Swim – a new series of one mile mass participation televised events taking place throughout the UK, following the success of the Great North Swim, which made its debut in Windermere last September as Britain’s biggest open water mass participation swim.
Taking its inspiration from the world’s biggest half marathon, the Bupa Great North Run, Great Swim uses the formula of mass participation events, providing a focus and a challenge for which the individual can train.
The aim is to build the world’s largest mass participation swimming programme, expanding to more venues throughout the UK in 2010.
Attending the launch of the Great East Swim was World Championship swimmer and Commonwealth Games champion, Karen Pickering. A Local girl from Ipswich, Karen was awarded an MBE in 1994 for her services to swimming and has already signed up to take part in the one mile swim.
Another of Britain’s iconic swimming figures to attend was Alan Bircher, the first British European open water medallist and Britain’s first World Championships open water medallist.
Sonia O’Sullivan, 5000m Olympic silver medalist and double world cross country champion is Ireland’s greatest ever runner. At the launch Sonia pledged to swap her running shoes for goggles proving that swimming is a sport that can be enjoyed by all.
Other guests included Mike Read, 1960 Olympian and ‘King of the Channel’ who has swam across the English Channel under Channel Swimming Association rules, a record breaking 33 times, but has signed up to tackle the much shorter one mile distance of the Great East Swim.
Cllr Lisa Chambers, Portfolio Holder for Economic and Cultural Development, said: “This is a wonderful chance for every single one of us to put Suffolk on the map, in so many different ways. An event like this brings not only a sense pride of place but pride in taking part. An event like this means so much locally, bringing in business, tourism and a real buzz to the county. What an opportunity to take part in the first Great East Swim, and to work towards the Healthy Ambitions target of making Suffolk the healthiest county by 2028.”
Jake Williams, Anglian Water’s Recreation and Access Manager, said: “This is a fantastic series of events to bring to our water park which will bring enjoyment to a wide cross section of the community. Anglian Water is doing its bit to get the region moving ahead of the 2012 Olympics and we are proud to provide Alton Water as a facility for launching what we hope will become a major highlight on the East of England’s events calendar”.
The entry limit for the Great East swim is 2000 people and entries are now open at www.greatswim.org.