Travessia dos Fortes

To sun and samba Rio wants to add sport. They did?t make it to the shortlist for the 2012 Olympics, probably because of the violence. But in 2007 they are hosting an other important event: The Pan-American games. As a warm up, and to show the world they can organize big sporting events, a series of events is scheduled. The first of these is the Travessia dos Fortes. A 3.8 km swim from the Copacabana Fort to the Fort of Leme at the other side of the bay. Or put in a other way a swim along the full length of the most famous beach on earth.

The race was held for the fourth time and did have a record number of participants of 4.300. Including Brazilian olympic swimmers Luiz Lima and Monique Ferreira. If 4.000 people, incluidng children can do it, it shouldn?t be a problem for me. Yet it seemed quite hard. I swim regularly, but never in the sea, and never this kind of distance. I only realised there was an other complicating factor, the cold water, when I arrived and saw people putting vaseline on their body. I was told that the water is between 14 and 18 degrees and not the comfortable swimming pool 30 degrees. Wet suits are only allowed for those over 60.

The first part was very crowded and it was impossible to get into your stroke. Soon things got more relaxed and you could really start to swim. The water was cold indeed, but there were almost no waves. In the open sea it is difficult to get a sense of direction, so you just follow the swimmers in front of you, hoping they are taking a straight line to the finish. Progress was marked by the Copacabana hotels. By the time I reached the Copacabana Palace Hotel my hands were freezing. At Le Meridien I knew I would make it, and even found some strength for a last push.

Luiz Lima won the mens race for the third time in a row in 41 minutes 58 seconds. I finished almost an hour later. And altough it was a hot day found the Leme beach full of people trembling from the cold. A rare sight in Rio. The organization was prepared and provided hot-chocolate, and for the worst cases, comfortable towels.

Rio hopes that the Aquatic Marathon will become part of the Olympic and Pan-American program. They will have one facility ready for their next olympic bid. And one that won?t be easy to beat , for its beauty, by any other city.