International conference on how to reduce number of drownings across Europe to be held in Latvia in November

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The first international conference “Learn to Swim” will take place in Jurmala, Latvia, on 11-12 November, this year. It is organised by the European Swimming Federation (European Aquatics) in cooperation with the Latvian Swimming Federation (LPF). The main objective of the conference is to share experiences and work together to reduce the number of drownings and improve people’s swimming skills at European level.

I want to sincerely thank the Latvian swimming federation for committing resources, energy and passion to a very important cause – Learning to Swim. By organising a Congress, in a beautiful location on the Baltic Sea, they are bringing experts and enthusiasts from all our Europe to a single location. There is no better way to meet people, share and gain knowledge, and help to design the first ever Europe wide standard for Learning to Swim. Together, we will discuss how valuable the life skill of swimming is, but also ways to encourage more people to learn to love water – as a joyful and healthy activity for young and old”, European Aquatics President António José Silva invites to attend the conference.

The conference is an important event for promoting cooperation between European national federations, academics, swimming coaches and educators, other professionals involved in the sport of swimming, as well as representatives of decision-making bodies. It is a new initiative to promote water safety and swimming education across Europe. During the conference, participants will be introduced to the “Learn to Swim” programme developed by European Aquatics to teach children swimming skills and knowledge of safe behaviour. Its aim is to establish a common framework and methodology for teaching swimming in all Europe. The training material has been developed by the European Aquatics Education Commission, which is made up of experts in their field from several countries.

The two-day programme will bring together many experts in their fields. Dr Robert Stallman, Associate Professor in the Department of Physical Development at the Norwegian School of Sport Science, will share how to build a successful national swimming programme, while Andreas Schleicher, Director of Education and Skills at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), will highlight the importance of physical education in education and social values. The conference programme also includes presentations by representatives of the swimming federations of Portugal, Hungary, Ireland, Slovenia and Estonia, as well as several panel discussions.

The conference will open with a special keynote address by Ysra Mardini, former Olympic swimmer and member of the Syrian national team, whose swimming skills saved herself and 18 other refugees on their way from Turkey to Greece. When the boat’s engine stopped, she and three other refugees reached Lesvos three hours later, swimming and pushing the boat forward. In 2023, the “Time” magazine listed Ysra among the 100 most influential people in the world.

“Latvia as the venue for the first “Learn to Swim” conference is symbolic – there are still too many drownings in the country and there is no unified strategy for swimming education. This will be a great opportunity to learn from the experience of other countries. Over two days, you will have the opportunity to meet experts in the field from almost all over Europe. Speakers will include representatives from Ireland, where the Water Safety Association dates back to 1945 and today today there is less than one death per 100,000 inhabitants; from Norway, where compulsory swimming training was introduced in schools in the 1960s and where training is also compulsory in open water bodies, and other countries”, says LPF President Aivars Platonovs.”

The conference “Learn to Swim” reflects the continental organisation’s commitment to promoting swimming education across Europe and thereby reducing the risks of drowning. Bringing together a wide range of stakeholders including athletes, coaches, administrators, industry experts, politicians, health and education professionals, the conference invites productive discussions on best practices, innovative strategies and pragmatic solutions for educational programme on swimming and drowning prevention policies.

The conference “Learn to swim”, organised by the European Swimming Federation in cooperation with the Latvian Swimming Federation and the association “Swim safe”, will take place on 11 and 12 November in Jurmala at the “Hotel Lielupe by Semarah”. The conference programme can be found on the website and