Greece 4.2.2020. The Greek Lifesaving Sports Association was founded to serve water safety and lifesaving sport. Within a month of operation, it became the powerhouse of lifesaving sport in Greece.
In 1970’s the “father” of professional lifeguarding in Greece, Lucas Bistarakis tried to facilitate the recognition of the sport by the Sport Council (General Secretariat of Sports). His organization, the Pan Hellenic Lifesaving Union was a member of FIS. He invited in his house the FIS President José Antonio de Pasqual to Greece and his Spanish Lifesaving National Team to exhibit the sport. Politics and timing were not right. In 2007, the Hellenic Federation of Underwater Activity and Sport Fishing (EOYDA) met the Hellenic Red Cross representatives and proposed a potential partnership. Nothing happened. In 2011, I signed with EOYDA a contract to act as volunteer Lifesaving Sport Director. Since then, several remarkable things were achieved. Among them, we organized 3 National Championships (one of which was endorsed by the HRC), 1 Military Lifesaving Tournament, many interclub competitions. We produced a monthly magazine, including lifesaving sport in the curriculum of primary school education via the Ministries of Health and Education. We included lifesaving sport as elective module in Higher Education. In 2018, EOYDA leadership asked a lawyer to draft a letter that literally terminated my activities and cancelled the 4th National Championship. A little while later they send me another unpleasant letter. In 2019, the Hellenic Red Cross asked me to offer my voluntary duties as Lifesaving Sport Special Partner. I proceeded and offered volunteers, equipment, manuals, time, energy and everything that would be needed. Surprisingly, they never allowed me to do anything. When the HRC send to Riccione, Italy a 3-member team for the Lifesaving European Championship, I went swimming. I could not accept the fact that despite all my efforts, my communications with friends from ILS/ILSE, inappropriate people who knew nothing about lifesaving sport were sent to compete. They did not represent Greece but the HRC. I started crying in the sea. Then I remembered a dream I had seen long time ago.
In 7/12/2018 at 7am, I woke up having seen a life changing dream. Winter. I sit at a chair of an outdoor coffee shop in Greece. I have my laptop on and I work on urgent things… what else? Lifeguard related. Suddenly I see hundreds of people in black heading towards the entry of the General Secretariat of Sports. I realize that they protest for the decree legislation about sports. I could not see their faces.
In the end of this year, I realized that EOYDA and the HRC cannot serve the sport, the country and those that wished to participated in championships. Several friends insisted: “Stathi, do something. This is a beautiful and important sport. Do not allow it die!” Fotis Zias, John Salogiannis and John Dimakopoulos told me repeatedly.
After a thorough effort and several months of search, I decided that enough is enough. In every obstacle I found, I used to take courage by reading. On the desk next to my bed I have always book; the Holy Bible, John Maxwell’s book with the 21 laws of leadership, my own fairy tale “Charlie the savior” and Greg Bonann’s “Baywatch”. They all have helped me in crucial curving points. Greg’s effort taught me to never give up. Charlie taught me with his bravery. The Bible says that if you want to see resurrection, you need to find first someone to crucify you. The last two years, I had two (EOYDA, HRC). It was time for action.
THE FUTURE STARTS TODAY
Learning should be fun, lifelong and for all. Especially when it is about the preservation of public health from injuries. Lifesaving sport is the only sport that teaches you how to save a life in and out of the water. In a naval nations such as Greece, such knowledge is necessary. For lifeguard training there are lifeguard agencies. For swimming teaching, there are swimming clubs. Greece was lucking a body that would prepare civilians in how to cope emergency situations through participation in sport. GLSA was founded to fill in this gap.
A group of visionary individuals felt obliged to serve Greece by founding GLSA. In its short timeline of history, lifesaving sport had several shining moments that made participants loved it and a few dark moments that placed it in comma. We felt responsible for the sport’s resurrection.
GLSA is composed by prestigious academics, scientists, numerous volunteers, world recognized honorary members, Olympic and world winners. GLSA became a Member of the International Federation of Swimming Teachers’ Association, signed Memoranda of Understanding with the Hellenic Navy Seals, the Make the Minute Matter, the British Universities Lifesaving Clubs’ Association and the Hellenic Olympic Winners Association. It sponsors and support the expansion and support of lifesaving sport in Higher Education. It applied to the International Life Saving Federation seeking the authorization to form National Teams for the European and the World Lifesaving Championships. Ladies and gentlemen it is now time to continue from where they stopped us! Photos: Dan Martin, Stathis Avramidis.
by Stathis Avramidis, PhD