VIDEO: Global Swimarathon

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THOUSANDS of people in countries around the world were all swimming to help eradicate polio at the weekend - thanks to an event organised by the Rotary Club of Grantham.

More than 5,000 swimmers from 100 clubs in 23 countries took part in the inaugural “Rotary Global Swimarathon” at the weekend, raising more than £37,000 to help the fight against polio.

The event set a new Guinness World Record for the most people around the world swimming at the same time.

Peter Berry, President of the Rotary Club of Grantham, said: “I cannot quite believe what has been achieved.

“We put on our annual Rotary Swimarathon and have 1,400 people over three days - we have just had over 5,000 in one hour and I cannot thank people enough for their support.”

The Rotarians set themselves an initial goal of getting 50 clubs on board but when word spread they eventually ended up with more than 100 from 23 countries - Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, China, Pakistan, India, Egypt, Kenya, Botswana, South Africa, USA, Canada, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Ireland, Moldova, Romania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Spain and Mexico.

To qualify as a record-breaking effort, all of the swimmers around the world needed to be swimming at the same time. While swimmers in Grantham began at 1pm, those taking part in New Zealand were in the pool at 1am.

Event chairman Roger Graves said: “To the delight of the organisers the idea of swimming at unusual times for such a great project fired the imagination of other Rotary Clubs - from late night swimming in the Philippines to an early morning swim in the Pacific for members in San Diego.”

The Grantham swim took place at The Meres with a live Skype link to the other swimmers around the world.

A total of 132 swimmers from Grantham took part at The Meres and the Rotarians would like to thank everyone in the town for their generous support.

Fund-raising at ASDA and Downtown in Grantham, as well as a street collection on Saturday raised £2,134.

Stephen Tapley, headmaster at Isaac Newton Primary School, said: “It was a tremendous event, totally different to the highly successful Rotary Swimarathon put on by the same team.

“This was a global event, Grantham was the centre, and we were raising funds for such a good cause. It was incredible and, to top it all, a potential record breaker”

Due to the success, the Rotary Club of Grantham is already planning for next year’s event, which they hope to hold on February 23.