Jonathan Knott

Former British ambassador to Hungary, Budapest

Part of UK in Hungary

22nd July 2013 Budapest, Hungary

Swimming across Lake Balaton

I had a brilliant weekend. I did the Lake Balaton Cross Swim. That’s a 5.2 km swim across the biggest freshwater lake in Central Europe. It was so rewarding and so much fun. The organisers estimate that some 7700 people did the swim in the glorious sunshine. It was a bit more than a fun-swim, given the distance. But the atmosphere before the start and at the finish was carnival – music playing, picnics everywhere. There were TV crews at the beginning and the end too, capturing the joy of the day. But the real experience of the day was in the water. Swimming with so many people, all happy and keen to help each other. And hearing the cheers of the people on the boats which lined the course. It was physically exhausting but such a boost for the spirit.

Swimming across Lake Balaton
The Hungarian Lifesavers took this photo of me (I’m at the bottom, in a red-white-blue swim cap) from a boat in the middle of the Balaton.

I did the swim for two reasons. First I wanted to take part in one of the great modern Hungarian traditions – and see if I could still take on this sort of challenge. But second, and more importantly, I wanted to support the Hungarian Lifesaving Association. These are the people who keep the beaches of Balaton safe for holidaymakers and who patrol other Hungarian popular waterways. I’ve supported Lifesavers in Britain for many years and I wanted to do the same here. Especially after I spent a day with them on Balaton and saw the fantastic work they do: they are the lake’s primary emergency service. And on the day I visited they were inspirational as they saved a man who, I suspect, but for them would not have survived.

So I invited friends and colleagues to sponsor my swim, promising to split what I raised between British and Hungarian lifesavers. And I’m really pleased that I managed to raise some 2 million forint in total (about £7K). It’s not a fortune, but I hope it can make a difference. I also hope that by publicizing the work the Lifesavers do a few more people will decide to support them.

Swimming across Lake Balaton
I received a warm welcome on the shore of Lake Balaton by Mihály Tar, Spokesperson of the Hungarian Lifesavers.

Finally I want to offer thanks to several people who helped me meet the challenges of the swim. To the great Éva Risztov for setting me up with an excellent training programme which helped me not just finish the course, but to do it in 2 hours 4 minutes – well under the time I had hoped for. To the organisers of the Balaton Swim who were so kind to me on the day and who put together a sensational day for everyone. To staff of the Komjadi pool where I have spent so many hours training over the last few months. And to my wife for her patience while I’ve been at Komjadi.

1 comment on “Swimming across Lake Balaton

  1. Well Done!!!

    I have just learned to swim freestyle, by a Chezk Olympian swimmer called Mirek who works a the gym. I have had four lessons, and that has set me up. He is very keen for my husband and other people from the gym to travel to Hungary to do this swim. After reading your information, I will seriously consider this. I will be slow, but I can do it. it sounds such fun.
    Thank you for inspiring me.

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About Jonathan Knott

Jonathan Knott was appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Hungary in March 2011 and arrived in Budapest in February 2012 to take up his post. He left this post on April…

Jonathan Knott was appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to
Hungary in March 2011 and arrived in Budapest in February 2012 to take
up his post. He left this post on April 2015.
He has previously held a variety of diplomatic posts at home and
abroad, several with a particular focus on commercial and corporate
finance issues. Jonathan has served in a number of positions in the
British Diplomatic Service since joining in 1988:
Before his appointment was Deputy Head of Mission and Director for Trade and Investment in South Korea from 2008 to 2011.Between 2005 and 2008 he held the post of Deputy Finance Director in the FCO.From 2000 to 2005 he served as First Secretary (Trade, Corporate Affairs and Finance Negotiator) in UKDel OECD Paris.From 1996 to 2000 he was First Secretary (Head of Political/Economic/Aid Section) in Mexico.From 1995 to 1996 he worked in the FCO as Deputy European Correspondent at the EU Directorate.Between 1991 and 1995 he served as Third later Second Secretary (Political / Press and Public Affairs) in Havana.From 1990 to 1991 he was Desk Officer in the FCO’s First Gulf War Emergency Unit.Between 1988 and 1990 he worked as Desk Officer in the FCO in the Anti Drugs Cooperation Department.
Jonathan holds an MA in law from Oxford University, and he is a
member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. He speaks
English, French, Spanish and Hungarian. He is married to Angela Susan
Knott and has one daughter and two sons.

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