There can be precious few moments in life to beat the pride of being selected to represent your country at sport. To be able to do it nude is the icing on the cake. This weekend a team of swimmers from British Naturism competed against 11 European nations at the International Naturist Federation swimming gala in the Serbian capital of Belgrade, with Naturists from Canada and the US also in attendance.
Despite base camp, a modern four star hotel, being in the centre of the city, the glistening Danube visible from bedrooms on higher floors, a conference suite was made available for us to eat and let our hair down without clothes.
A quiz (in English, fortunately) kicked off the event, with people from different countries mixing to form teams. Next morning 100-plus swimmers and supporters trooped crocodile-style to the Olympic-sized pool (pictured), on the banks of the river, only a short walk away.
Thanks to NOS, the Serbian federation, the competition was very well run with a huge number of races in backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and freestyle with team and family relays, the whole thing overseen by professional judges and time keepers. BN sports officer Ian Munt, worked hard to make sure the yellow swim-capped UK competitors were in place for each race and motivating the team. Very many of our swimmers came away with medals which were awarded at the poolside podium amidst cheers and applause.
Lunch was served - also poolside - and not a little impressive that it was hot - a pork filet in a cream sauce with roasted vegetables.
Gala over, people chilled out in the hotel sauna or explored Belgrade, especially the castle, before attending the announcement of placings and a (naked) buffet dinner. The night ended with another fantastic, euphoric, life-affirming naked disco - a new experience for some of the teams.
The BN team were naturally delighted to pick up a trophy for 3rd place, though disappointed to miss beating the Italians by a mere three points!
Can we do better? Of course - but we need more competitors. Ours was a team of 15, but 42 are permitted and points are awarded for every finisher. The Germans dominated in the pool but also brought a large team. Medals are awarded in categories by age and a quartet of young Germans won gold in EVERY race as they were alone in their age group. The same applied in the older age brackets. You don’t have to be an Olympic standard swimmer, if you can swim 50 metres you’re in. Team members do pay for their own travel but the accommodation - which included breakfast and dinner - is subsidised. It’s likely that next year’s gala will be in Northern France and therefore easier (and maybe cheaper) to attend. How do you apply? Come and swim in the BN swimming gala next Spring! Details coming soon.
Look out for pictures of the event on the gallery later this week.