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Swimming Over Shipwrecks: Greece’s ‘Authentic Marathon Swim’ Starts July 2 – Interview with the Organizers

Preparations are underway in Pefki on the Greek island of Evia for the second running of The Authentic Marathon Swim, a sports tourism event that will link the past with the present by reviving an authentic marathon swimming route, 2.500 years after it was first accomplished.

The event will take place July 2-4.

Ioannis Kontzias. Photo credit: Authentic Marathon Swim

Co-organized by the Municipality of IstiaiaEdipsos and ActiveMedia Group, the event revives the original swimming route that the ancient athletes Skyllias and Hydna followed during the historic naval battle of Artemision in 480 B.C.

“We are trying to build our legacy and promote the history of Artemision and our municipality to the whole world,” says the Mayor of Istiaia-Edipsos, Ioannis Kontzias.

A strong supporter of the event since it first kicked off last year, Mayor Kontzias is standing on the front line, ensuring that the necessary health measures are being followed while getting ready to once again welcome athletes from all over the world.

According to the mayor, many surprises this year await visitors to the Municipality of Istiea-Edipsos, as many additions have been made to the event’s program.

Ioannis Kontzias and Lefteris Avgenakis. Photo credit: Authentic Marathon Swim

Ioannis Kontzias with Greek Deputy Minister of Culture & Sports, Lefteris Avgenakis. Photo credit: Authentic Marathon Swim

“We want visitors to become part of our history, enjoy the numerous sports, tourism and cultural options offered in our municipality and of course create memories that will make them come back the next years,” Mayor Kontzias tells GTP Headlines.

Exciting event that promotes region’s sports tourism side

Akis Tsolis. Photo credit: Authentic Marathon Swim

The Authentic Marathon Swim, a historic swimming event in Greece, is also seen as the way to promote the region’s sports tourism potential.

According to Akis Tsolis, the CEO of ActiveMedia Group, co-organizer and responsible for the event’s sports production, Northern Evia has a great potential to attract tourists based on its sports tourism offerings.

“We have a location where pieces of political, military, cultural, or social history have been preserved due to their cultural heritage value. Add great geographical factors and the fact that you only need 90 minutes from Athens to take the ferry to Edipsos, and you’ve got an ideal sports tourism destination,” he says.

In this interview, the event’s organizers give details on the second Authentic Marathon Swim event, which will kick off on Friday.

Mayor of Istiaia-Edipsos, Ioannis Kontzias

Mayor of Istiaia-Edipsos, Ioannis Kontzias; Greek silver Olympic medalist, Spyros Gianniotis; president of Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO), Angela Gerekou; Greek Deputy Minister of Culture & Sports, Lefteris Avgenakis; and governor of Central Greece Region, Fanis Spanos. Photo credit: Authentic Marathon Swim

Mayor of Istiaia-Edipsos, Ioannis Kontzias; Greek silver Olympic medalist, Spyros Gianniotis; president of Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO), Angela Gerekou; Greek Deputy Minister of Culture & Sports, Lefteris Avgenakis; and governor of Central Greece Region, Fanis Spanos. Photo credit: Authentic Marathon Swim

  • GTP: Mayor Kontzias, last year’s first Authentic Marathon Swim was one of the few events that managed to take place alongside the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the difficulties also noticed this year for organizing events, you managed to obtain all the necessary permits and also establish a strict health protocol. Now, a few days before the second event kicks off at Pefki, how are the preparations coming along?

Mayor Ioannis Kontzias: Last year we managed to organize an event based on a very strict health protocol that was established by our experienced staff in the sports and tourism sectors and certified by the World Health Organization. It’s important to mention that our health and safety strategy was distinguished with a silver award at the 2021 Tourism Awards for the safety measures we implemented for Guest & Staff Protection during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Our organization has received all necessary permits for this year as well.

Greek national swimming coach, Nikos Gemelos, with the lifeguard team. Photo credit: Authentic Marathon Swim

The lifeguard team. Photo credit: Authentic Marathon Swim

Moreover, we have the pleasure and honor to cooperate with the technical director of the Greek National Team, Nikos Gemelos, who is a global expert on safety issues related to open water swimming. Gemelos and his team will once again ensure the successful implementation of the safety rules and conditions of all races.
We are also collaborating with the entire local government of Central Greece, the Region of Central Greece, the Organization of Cultural Development for Central Greece (O.P.A.ST.E.), the Central Union of Municipalities in Greece (KEDE) and the Regional Union of Municipalities of Central Greece. Moreover, we are cooperating with the entire local business world, including restaurants, ferry companies, a car rental company and many hotels of the Municipality of Istiea-Edipsos to provide special accommodation packages.

  • GTP: This open-water swimming event offers today’s swimmers the opportunity to swim over the shipwrecks of the historical Battle of Artemision. Just hearing this sound exciting and unique! What was the feedback from last year’s event?

Photo credit: Authentic Marathon Swim

Mayor Ioannis Kontzias: It is really exciting and actually this is our legacy that we need to protect and promote. We offer swimmers and visitors the opportunity to discover the cultural and natural wealth of the region and to become a part of its history, in the birthplace of marathon swimming. The feedback we received was very positive. We managed to welcome amateur and professional swimmers from Japan, Russia, Great Britain, Germany, Bulgaria and Greece with utmost safety. We also created extra demand for the hotels in the Municipality of Istiea-Edispos during that period and reinforced the local economy.

  • GTP: Will there be anything new about this year’s event? Should we expect any innovations or additions to the Authentic Marathon Swim 2021?

Mayor Ioannis Kontzias: For this year’s event we have prepared lots of surprises and additions in our schedule. More specifically, on Friday July 2, the authentic 14km marathon route will be held for the first time, with 4 ultra-marathon swimmers taking part. In addition, on Saturday July 3 we will hold the new, magical 5km swimming route at Pefki beach.

Photo credit: Authentic Marathon Swim

Our activities also, for the first time, include the presence of the Hellenic Navy Music Band, connecting the historic Naval Battle of Artemision in 480 B.C. with today and honoring the naval feat.
And that’s not all… More surprises will be revealed upon the arrival of visitors at the Municipality of Istiea-Edipsos.

  • GTP: What are you aiming for with the Authentic Marathon Swim 2021? What are the goals of this year’s event?

Mayor Ioannis Kontzias: We are trying to build our legacy and promote the history of Artemision and our municipality to the whole world. Every year we expect an increase in participations, and of course in the number of visitors who wish to come, take part in the race, become part of our history, enjoy the numerous sports, tourism and cultural options offered in our municipality and of course create memories that will make them come back the next years.

  • GTP: The town of Edipsos is quite close to Athens, being only an hour and a half away by ferry. What efforts is the municipality carrying out to showcase it more to the Greeks and for it to become a popular domestic tourism destination?

Impressive drone footage of the swimming races at Pefki, of the Municipality of Istiaia-Edipsos (photo by Dimitris Andritsos Photography @ Authentic Marathon Swim)

Mayor Ioannis Kontzias: You are totally right. Our municipality is just an hour and a half by car from Athens and is very close also for people travelling from Central and North Greece. We are in contact with tourism companies for the creation of special accommodation packages, while we are trying to promote all our landmarks such as Pefki, Istiea, the thermal springs of Edipsos, Artemision, Kanatadika, Lichada, Vasilika, Neos Pyrgos, Orei and Agiokampos. At the Authentic Marathon Swim we also promote our special accommodation offers so that tourists can have easy access to all this significant information and know how to take advantage of our travel offers when visiting our location.

  • GTP: Please give our readers some information about Edispos. What are the destination’s tourism offerings? When is the best time to visit?

Mayor Ioannis Kontzias: Edipsos is an all-time tourist attraction. First of all, the baths at Edipsos compose a holistic spa holiday in Evia. Its revitalizing waters offer wellness and healing. There are more than 80 springs of varying temperatures. There are several public and private hydrotherapy centres, while in pools of the town’s hotels many have found relief from chronic ailments. You can choose seawater or mineral water, mud baths, massages, or simply bathe in the sea at spots where the springs pour into it.

Edipsos, Evia. Photo Source: Visit Greece / Y. Skoulas

Edipsos, Evia. Photo Source: Visit Greece / Y. Skoulas

  • GTP: It is a fact that Edipsos is known for the miraculous qualities of its thermal spas. These spas are known for attracting famous individuals, such as Winston Churchill, Aristotle Onassis and Maria Callas. How difficult is it to see these times again? What are the municipality’s plans regarding the promotion of Edipsos as a thermal spa tourism destination?

Mayor Ioannis Kontzias: The baths at Edipsos, in North Evia, have been attracting illustrious visitors for millennia.
Emperors like Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius and Constantine the Great came to this small city to be healed by its waters. Aristotle himself tried to unlock the secret of their therapeutic powers. More recent celebrities who took long soaks in its restorative pools include the likes of Aristotle Onassis, Maria Callas, Greta Garbo and Omar Sharif… not to mention countless Greek politicians, shipping magnates, industrialists and artists.
Edipsos has always been one of the main attractions of our municipality and our strategy contains the city of Edipsos not only for its thermal spas but as a tourism destination in general.

Akis Tsolis, CEO of ActiveMedia Group

ActiveMedia Group is the co-organizer of the Authentic Marathon Swim and responsible for its sports production. the Group’s CEO, Akis Tsolis, shares some interesting facts with us.

Akis Tsolis. Photo credit: Authentic Marathon Swim

Akis Tsolis. Photo credit: Authentic Marathon Swim

  • GTP: It is quite impressive that for the organization of the event you managed to bring together the entire local government with the Region of Central Greece, the Organization of Cultural Development for Central Greece (O.P.A.S.T.E.), the Central Union of Municipalities in Greece (KEDE) and the Regional Union of Municipalities of Central Greece as co-organizers. How did you manage this? Which other bodies or enterprises are embracing the event?

Akis Tsolis: We always need one man with a vision. This was the mayor Giannis Kontzias. Then, as the Ancient Greek philosopher Democritus well quoted «Από ομονοίης τα μεγάλα έργα» meaning “from concord come the great achievements”. What we have achieved first of all is the perfect matchup between the public and private sector.
Moreover, we feel honoured to have the Federal Technical Coach, Nikos Gemelos, as our technical director in the event and a great ambassador, the silver Olympic medallist Spyros Gianniotis who represents the history of the Greek marathon swimming. Our experienced team, certified by the World Health Organization, ensures a flawless event management and of course the utmost safety in the most historic swimming event in Greece.
We are talking about the Authentic Marathon Open Water Swimming Route. Something bigger than anything else. We all have to support this event, protect our heritage and preserve our history. All of us, municipalities, regions, federations, coaches, athletes, locals, all of us.

Nikos Gemelos and Akis Tsolis. Photo credit: Authentic Marathon Swim

Nikos Gemelos and Akis Tsolis. Photo credit: Authentic Marathon Swim

  • GTP: The second Authentic Marathon Swim coincides with Greece’s opening for tourism. Should we expect entries from abroad?

Akis Tsolis: We are very proud that the event is embraced by the Greek Ministry of Tourism, the General Secretariat of Sports, the Greek National Tourism Organization and the International Olympic Academy. Greece’s Tourism & Sports Leadership! We already expect participants from 9 different countries, such as the United States of America, Russia, Spain, Hungary, Poland, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Malta and Greece.

  • GTP: You are a known supporter of promoting Greece as a destination for sports event tourism. What would you say is the sports tourism potential of Northern Evia and how can this be communicated abroad?

Akis Tsolis: Northern Evia has a great potential to promote its sports tourism. We have a location where pieces of political, military, cultural, or social history have been preserved due to their cultural heritage value. Add great geographical factors and the fact that you only need 90 minutes from Athens to take the ferry to Edipsos, and you’ve got an ideal sports tourism destination.

It should be mentioned that The Authentic Marathon Swim has joined the swimming community of Global Swim Series (GSS).

GTP Headlines is a media sponsor of The Authentic Marathon Swim 2021.

Follow GTP Headlines on Google News to keep up to date with all the latest on tourism and travel in Greece.
About the Author
Nikos is Greek-American born in New York, USA, and has lived in Greece for over 30 years. He is the managing editor of Greece's leading monthly travel and tourism guide, the Greek Travel Pages (GTP) since June 2008 and of news site GTP Headlines since its launch in September 2012. Nikos has also served as international press officer for the City of Athens and for the mayor. He has a degree in Mass Media and Communications, specializing in Journalism. Nikos is a native English speaker and speaks Greek fluently.

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