As we glaze over the world, there are a number of swims where politics prevents open water swimming from happening. But over time and with a unique vision of passionate open water swimmers and their supporters, these political barriers eventually fall…as they do on terra firma.
Lynne Cox’s world-renowned swim across the Bering Strait is the most earth-shattering contemporary open water Efforts that help break down political barriers.
Currently, Colonel Nejib Ben Messaoud Belhedi is doing a 1400K stage swim along the entire border of his native Tunisia. The unprecedented swim, done with the support of hundreds of people throughout Tunisia. His swim is a great example of one individual serving as a catalyst of peace and harmony among people who would have never otherwise come together.
Swimmers and supporters in the area have enthusiastically picked up on Colonel Nejib Belhedi’s swim and are working on extending the swim along the Mediterranean coast to Libya, Egypt, and perhaps, even Palestine and Israel.
Over in Asia, Open Water Source has been working on a swim between the disputed Kuril Islands off the northern coast of Hokkaido in Japan. While the area is home to about 35 active volcanoes and extreme seismic activity, the political differences between Russia and Japan have caused even more heat and friction. In an absolutely breathtakingly rugged area, there is a mix of warm and cold currents that is home to one of the leading fishing grounds of the world.
There are two potential politically sensitive swims in the area: a 16K swim from Kunashiri Island to Hokkaido and a shorter swim from Shihatsu Island to Hokkaido.
Since World War II, Japan and Russia have still not agreed on a resolution to this conflict. The issues revolves around these handful of small islands off the northern coast of Hokkaido (Shikotan, Etorofu, Kunashiri and the Habomai Islands). The dispute rests over the control of the Kuril islands, which were claimed by the Soviet Union in 1945. Japan claims that these islands are part of Japan, as they have always been visible with the naked eye from Japan and appear on centuries-old maps of Japan. At the end of World War II, the former Soviet Union took control of the Kuril Islands and forced the Japanese out.
As Lynne’s swim did in 1987 and Colonel Belhedi’s swim is currently inspiring, a swim in this area could be a demonstration that the political differences of the past can be resolved with 21st century thinking and a look towards a more harmonious future.
Photo above shows the channel between Kunashiri Island and Nemuro Peninsula in Japan.
Copyright © 2011 by Open Water Source