The article below has been provided by Saša Dobrijević, a journalist from Serbia, the only journalist to cover the competition.
On Saturday, November the 5th, the 50th Gala naturist international swimming competition was held in Belgrade at the “May 25th – Milan Gale Muškatirović Pool”. Members of the International Naturist Federation, to which the Naturist Organization of Serbia belongs, took part. Competitors came from many European countries, such as Germany, France, Italy, Great Britain, Switzerland, and others. All age categories and all swimming styles were represented. The participants were accommodated in Hotel Mona Plaza, near the sports centre where the competition took place. Serbia had its representatives in several disciplines.
Interviews were conducted during, and also after, the Gala competition so that the journalist could convey real impressions from this event.
Pavle Đ. – competitor from Serbia: “I don’t swim, so I only expect to swim to the other side” – says the competitor with a laugh. “I’m joking – I do love swimming, but I swim as an amateur, for my soul, in my rhythm, so I just wanted to test my abilities.”
After swimming in several disciplines, they “dropped” the first medals. The swimmers already had smiles on their faces, and the awards shone on their chests.
Nuria – competitor from Barcelona: “This is my first time in Serbia and I really like it here. Otherwise, I’ve been competing for 5 or 6 years. I have been to Britain, Italy, and other countries. I won numerous medals. I swam the 50-metre backstroke.”
Miloš R. – competitor from Serbia: “I am satisfied, both with the result and the time achieved. The Naturist Organization of Serbia organized preparations. I have been attending regularly, so that helped me.”
Caroline – competitor from Germany: “I already won two medals for butterfly and backstroke, but I have more categories to compete in. I also compete as a team member for Germany, and I hope we win a medal. I like backstroke and freestyle the most. Otherwise, it’s my first time in Serbia, and it’s perfect. It’s very good organization. The judges are good. We flew in yesterday, and we only managed to be around the hotel, but we plan to go sightseeing in the city.”
Daniel – competitor from Great Britain: “So far I have won two silver medals. I am very satisfied. I am competing in my own country. Swimming is my main sport and I swim two to three times a week. I am very impressed by Serbia. I can’t wait to explore the city by myself tomorrow. I am delighted with the organization of the whole competition.”
Journalist: “How long have you been a naturist?”
Allen – competitor from Great Britain: “I’ve been a naturist for about ten years, and I’ve been attending these events for seven years. This is my fourth International Gala swimming competition.”
Journalist: “What have you learned in the ten years of being a naturist?”
Allen: “I’ve learned to accept my body. I feel happier about how my body looks, how I feel in it, and how I can use it. I’m much more confident. Being around other people with normal bodies has helped me see how bodies are different and beautiful and that we don’t have to be muscular and perfect.”
Journalist: “How much time a day do you spend without clothes?”
Allen: “Unfortunately, I have a full-time job where I must be fully dressed, but as soon as I get home, I take off all my clothes. Heh heh… Yeah, I’m naked at home as much as I can be. I also like naturist hiking in nature, so I go on naked mountain hikes on weekends.”
Journalist: “How many categories do you compete in?”
Allen: “I compete in as many categories as possible. I grew up swimming. I also competed in England, but now that I can do it as a naturist… Well, that’s even better. There is not so much competition in my age category (38). I usually have competition from Italy and Germany, but they didn’t come this year. I have already won two gold medals.”
Serbia won the gold medal in several swimming events. It is not unusual in this competition that there are not enough candidates for certain age categories, so for some participants, it is just enough to swim a certain style in the 50 metres of the pool, and they win a medal.
Miloš R – competitor from Serbia: “I won the gold medal because I was the only one in my category. I feel good. It’s a little strange when you win gold, and you’re alone in that category, but I swam well and I am feeling great.”
During the competition, naturists socialized, and made new acquaintances, and also renewed some old acquaintances they made at previous swimming gala competitions. The atmosphere was exceptionally pleasant, and everyone was open to communication and getting to know each other. In any case, Serbia proved to be an excellent organizer and host.
Sandrine – competitor from France: “It is a pleasure to be here. I am impressed by the quality of the organization. The pool is extremely clean, the staff is wonderful, and everything is perfect. That is a great surprise. Thank you, Serbia for everything.”
The International Naturist Federation has a special program for young people that includes visiting European cities, socializing, and various other sports events. The leader of the youth was Daniela from Germany, who had also taken part in the 50th International Gala Swimming Competition.
Journalist: “What programs do you have in your organization for young naturists?”
Daniela – leader of the program for young naturists of the INF: “We organize the main event once a year, every year in a different country. We have members from many European countries. Next year, we will most likely organize a gathering of young people in France. We have not decided yet.”
Journalist: “Is it necessary to expand the membership of young naturists in Serbia?”
Daniela – leader of the program for young naturists of the INF: “Yes, there is room for new members in all countries. We need more young people because that is our future.”
One of the members of the section for young naturists from Serbia has already participated in the programs of the INF (International Naturist Federation).
Uroš G. – representative of the youth of Serbian naturists: “I was in Vienna and Frankfurt, and it was great. There were people from all European countries. When I went to Vienna, I was the only representative from Serbia, and in 2019 there were three of us in Frankfurt. It’s a great experience. Everything is well organized.”
Journalist: “What kind of program is it, what has been organized for young naturists?”
Uroš G. – representative of the youth of Serbian naturists: “As for the place where we were staying, there are tents, a lake, and sports fields. We have an organized program and free time. We toured the city. That was interesting because in Vienna we had a city tour by bicycle. In Frankfurt, we visited museums in the underground city.”
Journalist: “What are the benefits of the program?”
Uroš G. – representative of the youth of Serbian naturists: “Participation costs 50 euros, plus we pay the travel expenses ourselves. We get accommodation and food there; in fact for four days we have only paid 50 euros for accommodation and food.”
Although on the surface it seems like medals are being handed out like candy, this is a professional competition involving the highest level of qualified judges in swimming.
Journalist: “What were the judging criteria for today’s competition?”
Gordana Mirčetić judge: “We all judged according to FINA rules, so it is the same level of competition as all other professional competitions.”
Journalist: “Was it the first time you judged a naturist competition?”
Gordana Mirčetić judge: “I didn’t even know it existed until recently, and I have been a judge for over 30 years. I had no expectations or prejudices, I simply considered it normal, but I did not expect such a pleasant competition. The judges have NEVER received this much applause. Usually, the judges are not very popular, so we got a wonderful round of applause and a big thank you. Even the competitors coming out of the pool approached us to thank us. Therefore, this is a revelation for me.”
Two competitors in the senior categories gave up swimming, but the watchful eye of a lifeguard saw everyone.
Journalist: “Did everything go well?”
Milan Milićević lifeguard: “Everything was OK in the best possible way. One man and one woman failed to swim their discipline. The man grabbed the edge of the pool, I approached him, but no intervention was needed. The lady who gave up was obviously not ready for her discipline. She stopped halfway and she gave up. I saw her off, it’s a preventive part of the rescue work, but everything was for the best.”
So the most credible picture of this competition could be conveyed, the president of the International Naturist Federation (INF) was interviewed immediately the last medals were awarded.
Journalist: “What are your impressions of this year’s competition?”
Sieglinde Ivo – President of INF: “This was a great gathering, and I congratulate Goran and his team. Nothing was wrong. No one is dissatisfied. People are really satisfied, so it was fantastic, and I hope we will come again.”
The vice-president of NOS (Naturist Organization of Serbia), together with the whole team, had a major task in the organization of the entire event and also coordinating all guests and team members. Everything looked utterly professional and world-class. The president was asked to answer questions while still under the influence of adrenaline, immediately after the announcement of the winners.
Journalist: “How did everything go?”
Goran Filipović Fića – president of NOS (with a smile): “We survived. Considering how little time we had to prepare everything, judging by people’s reactions it seems that everyone is satisfied with the results and that they are satisfied with the organization. I like to say it like this: If you had a good time, tell everyone; if something didn’t work, tell us to change it for next time.”
For the first time, Serbian competitors had the opportunity to participate in an international swimming competition completely naked. It was clear from the facial expressions that they enjoyed the new experience as well as the medals they won.
Robert – a competitor from Serbia: “It’s wonderful, it was great. I won two bronze medals in butterfly and crawl styles. Competition has been organized greatly, and we all get along well.”
After so many people interviewed had praised the organization, accommodation, food, and all the other details of the competition, only one lady had a comment about one detail in her senior category.
Pia – a competitor from Switzerland: “I already swam in Paris and now in Belgrade. I would change a few things. When you swim backstroke, you have to see the limiters where your end of the pool is, and there were none. That confused me, but otherwise, everything the rest was great.”
The main person in charge of all sports activities is from Korea but lives in Spain. She followed the competition so that everything would take place according to all the world standards of the swimming competition. She awarded the medals along with the leaders of the INF.
Journalist: “What do you say about the organization in Serbia?”
Sook-hwa, head of INF sports activities: “This is sensational. The Serbian Federation of Naturists is a young organization, and they have so much energy. Everything is well organized.”
Journalist: “When you compare naturism in Spain and other countries, what is the main difference?”
Sook-hwa, head of sports activities of the INF: “There are actually a lot of similarities. In Spain, many years ago, we started like the Serbian federation, now with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. Although it is a new federation, Serbia is like ours. You can see that it is progressing quickly.”
Journalist: “What are your general impressions?”
Sook-hwa, head of INF sports activities: “The organization is phenomenal. Especially the judges, they are very professional. All the technical stuff, such as the scoreboard, was perfect. We are overjoyed, and overjoyed to have come to Serbia.”
After the swimming gala competition, they organized a gala dinner at the Hotel Mona Plaza, where naturists had an extremely abundant buffet with a variety of food for all tastes, at which NOS (Serbian INF) president Goran Filipović presented the awards to the guests from abroad. The socializing in the hotel before dinner was fantastic. The exchange of good stories and experiences, and also glasses of wine and pints of beer, was an indication that all nations are primarily people who have the same or similar habits and that only then they are members of a particular country. At the dinner itself, a certain number of guests, as well as Serbian members of the INF, were completely naked, all in the spirit of naturism that they advocate.
What was truly incredible was the very spirit of the competition. Cheering, shouts, applause, standing ovations, rhythmic clapping of hands in support of swimmers in their later years, as well as mutual communication, marked this nude swimming competition. One gets the impression that no one was there to win gold for egotistical reasons; on the contrary, so much support that was given could not be seen in everyday life. It’s as if humanity and empathy are so rare in life that this kind of support for each other is somewhat unusual. A relationship so obvious and healthy, so human and warm, is something that, at first, one can be surprised by.
Naturists have once again shown how much life without clothes has surpassed the standards of modern competitive life. They have shown in their example the very essence of healthy naturism. A man without clothes is just that – a man with no title, no status, and neither a high nor low position in society. Naked, naturists are just proof that we are all part of nature and that it is a spiritual enjoyment as much as a physical one. Without clothes, there are no masks, and no prejudices, which this competition in Belgrade once again proved to the world.
International journalist – Sasha Dobrijevich (Saša Dobrijević)