The Hotel Bristol in Budapest was the scene of the founding of the European Swimming League (LEN), that has always kept its acronym and nomenclature in French, its official language along with English. Although most European federations had been active for years – some were even created the previous century, including the first federation, Great Britain, in 1869 – LEN did not see the light of day until 1926.
Representatives from 11 countries were the architects of this historical agreement, that took place during the first European Championships, that consisted of swimming, diving and water polo events, three established Olympic sports. The first President was the Swede Erik Bergvall, who was also the president of the International Swimming Federation (FINA), founded in London in 1908- The Hungarian Leo Donath was appointed Secretary, a title he would hold until 1945, making him one of the most influential people in European aquatics during that difficult time.
The founding nations were Sweden, Hungary, Germany, Austria, France, Ireland, Italy, Denmark, Belgium, Greece and Spain. A British representative assisted unofficially as an observer.
The first decisions made during that meeting were holding the European Championships alternating with the Olympic Games, confirming European swimming records and committing to promote the benefits and ideals of European swimming.
Throughout its history, LEN has been led by 14 presidents. Nowadays, the power lies in Paolo Barelli (Italy), who was elected in September 2012 along with the Secretary, David Sparkes (Great Britain), and the Treasurer Tamas Gyarfas (Hungary). They will remain in office until 2020.
Barelli, who has been the president of the Italian Swimming Federation since the year 2000 and Honorary Secretary of FINA, was a prestigious Olympic swimmer who participated in the 1972 (Munich) and 1976 (Montreal) Olympic Games. In the World Championships held in Cali in 1975, he won Bronze at the 4x100 freestyle relay.
LEN headquarters are located in Nyon (Switzerland). The main continental water polo organization has 52 affiliated national federations.