An informal swimming club, which anyone can join, was created roughly three decades ago, and it continues to operate despite the cold and the risks. If ice covers the water, the swimmers cut holes in the city lakes or rivers to keep their ritual going. Drownings aren’t uncommon, but most shrug it off. "It only happens if you don't know how to swim well, but we take care of each other" they say.
Beijing authorities aren’t fond of the activity, but the swimmers are undeterred by the “No Swimming” signs and the police warnings. While Beijing remains obsessed with “modernizing” and consumerism increasingly takes hold, the swimming club and its members strolling around in speedos and diving into polluted waters represent an ode to strong social ties and simpler times in the not-so-distant past.