Established in 1989, the Bosphorus Cross-Continental Swim is the world’s only sports event where swimmers can cross the continents in one go. The swim, held every year without fail, is meant to bring together athletes from all over the world in the spirit of friendship as well as to push the boundaries in terms of personal sportsmanship. What began with four female and 64 male competitors in 1989 grew significantly in size over the years, becoming an essential part of Turkey’s sportive history.
By 2013, 2,310 swimmers from 54 countries signed up for the swim, a record for the event, which gained international fame when 22 swimmers from Czechoslovakia participated in 1992. Notable foreign athletes such as Ted Erikson, Ian Thorpe, Michael Read, Sonnove Cirotzki, and Mark Spitz also took part in the swim, while Turkish Olympic swimmer Hakan Eskioğlu won first place 10 times; he continues to hold the record for most wins in a row.
The Cross-Continental Swim starts in the Kanlıca neighborhood on the Asian side of Istanbul and stretches to the Kuruçeşme neighborhood on the European side at a distance of 6.5 kilometers (four miles). During the swim, all maritime traffic (including boats and large tankers) are halted, allowing for the free passage of all swimmers who get to take on the rough waters of the Bosphorus for an unforgettable experience.
From the shore, the swim is an extraordinary event to watch, as the water is brimming with nothing but the swimmers’ strokes as they traverse the famous strait uninterrupted to the finish line. Of course, at the end of it all, a large festival takes place at Kuruçeşme, complete with food, music, and entertainment celebrating the event.
In order to compete in the swim, participants need to take part in a selection judged by members of the Swimming Federation; therefore, not all people who apply are selected to take part in the final event. During the session, swimmers are asked to swim 800 meters in a pool and must complete this task in under 30 minutes. Male and female participants and different age categories are judged separately, and in the final selection, the overall quota also plays a major role. All participants must also apply online before the deadline (usually the middle of March), pay a fee of 100 Turkish Liras, and send in the necessary documents, such as proof of a health check up and identification, before the deadline.