David Cameron and other virile swimmers
By taking a 6 am dip in the chilly waters of Lough Erne, accompanied by a reluctant protection officer, while president Vladimir Putin stayed in bed, David Cameron has the macho band of political leaders who have sought to reinforce their authority with a display of physical fitness.
The most significant dip in modern times was Mao Tse-tung’s 10 mile swim across the Yangtze River, at Wuhan in July 1966. The Great Helmsman was 73 years old and had been keeping a low profile for some time, giving rise to speculation that his power had ebbed away. It was a brilliant piece of showmanship that was to be followed by the appalling Cultural Revolution.
Mussolini was also a great believer in letting his people know how fit and virile he was. A daily swim was integral to his public image. He commissioned Italy’s finest swimming pool, constructed out of pure marble with stone mosaic decorations, at the foot of the Monte Mario hill in Rome.
The late Senator Edward Kennedy, on the other hand, never lived down his claim to have shown remarkable fitness in the water, on the night of 18 July 1969, when he accidentally drove his car into a river near Martha’s Vineyard. His passenger drowned, but he turned up his hotel room, though the accident had occurred on the far side of the river, and there was no record that he had taken a ferry. “I suddenly jumped into the water and impulsively swam across, nearly drowning once again in the effort, and returned to my hotel about 2:00am,” he explained.
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