June 26 was the 7th Annual International Meis to Kaş Canoe and Swimming Contest. Castellorizo, known in Greek as Castellorizon, Kastelorizo or Megisti and in Turkish as Meis, is the smallest and most easterly of the Dodecanese Islands situated roughly half-way between the well-known Island of Rhodes and the major Turkish Port of Antalya. The race is a little over six kilometres between harbours.
Ufuk Güven met with us recently to discuss the origins of the Meis to Kaş Swim and Canoe race. This year marks the 7th of these annual events and it was held on June 26th, 2011. Ufuk told us “This is the only swimming competition between a Greek island to the Turkish mainland.“
When did you get the idea?
I first decided this was something to do over seven years ago.
What made you think of such a thing?
You know, I am looking to this world from a different angle than an ordinary person !! This festival was supposed to be a “friendship festival” between Meis and Kaş but at that time it was just mutual visits, cooking competitions and boring ceremonies. I believed a more colourful and exciting event was necessary.
What motivated you to do this?
For Turkish locals, Meis was very close but at the same time very far. The island was always just out there but most of them could not go there. It is still difficult without a passport and visa and impossible for those without. Because of old fashioned EU visa regulations, the festival is a symbolic break down of this barrier.
How did you organise a truly international event between two cities and two countries?
First I shared my idea with our mayor Halil Bey and our Governor Nurullah Bey. We visited Meis and talked to the mayor. Surprisingly they were all very positive. This verbal confirmation was enough to start.
How have you overcome political/bureaucratic problems?
As I mention before all three bureaucrats were very helpful. I must emphasise my respect for these three persons. They took a great risk and “they put their finger under the stone” (A Turkish proverb). Without them this competition would only be a dream.
What problems did you have for the first organisation?
Finding swimmers! I called all my friends to arrange for some swimmers because this was not my activity. At the end I found 35 swimmers. This year we have 185 participants and unfortunately we had to refuse at least another 100.
What problems have you had since then?
I insist that both governmental parties have to sign a mutual agreement to guarantee the future of this competition. Without that this will never be a legal race. If we do so we can proudly look for real sponsors; and one day this race will be live in international TV channels and 500 people from all over the world will swim and Kaş will profit out of that immensely.
Have you had trouble or problems with swimmers and kayakers?
Some very slow swimmers refused to leave the race although they were far behind the schedule.
Have you had trouble or problems with protesters for/against Greece or Turkey?
Not at all.
Who were your past sponsors and who are the current sponsors?
The Kas Marina manager said that Setur is a sponsor this year, is that true?
They did not contact me. I’ve heard they will distribute bathing caps. The rest is unknown for me.
How do you get volunteers to help?
Forcing and begging
How do you publicise the event?
Not necessary at the moment because we are far above our capacity. İt is getting risky and dangerous !!!
Any other comments you want to make…
I have a dream ! One day this competition will be organised by an institution. They will declare the date 12 months ahead! Not 2 months before the race. The mayor will not assume that Ufuk Güven will organise this race as always. This fictitious institution will arrange the lists, safety boats, referees, ceremonies etc. Only 10% of the population of this town understands how important this race could be for the publicity and the trade of Kaş.