Greek Lifesaving Sports Association Brings Together Experts, Organizations to Push for Olympic Inclusion

Photo Courtesy: Australian Lifesaving

Greek Lifesaving Sports Association Brings Together Experts, Organizations to Push for Olympic Inclusion

The Greek Lifesaving Sports Association (GLSA) convened a symposium in May that pushes for the inclusion of the sport in the Olympic program.

The symposium, hosted in Greece, brought together 39 experts and 30 organizations from 18 nations, including the International Swimming Hall of Fame, to vet the viability of the sports for addition to the Olympic program.

Lifesaving is recognized as a sport by the International Olympic Committee. It is contested by various continental bodies, particularly popular in areas of Europe and Australia with a significant culture of life on the water. (Australian Lani Pallister, for instance, is a world record holder in a pair of youth disciplines.) And it’s included in the quadrennial World Games.

But its only inclusion in the Olympic program was as a demonstration sport at the 1900 Olympics in Paris, in the Seine River which will again be featured as an open water and triathlon venue. Ahead of the Olympics’ return to that city, various lifesaving sport organizations are pushing to raise the profile of a sport that has existed for more than a century and melds water safety with a competitive aspect. (The International Life Saving Federation, for instance, is recognized by both the IOC and the World Health Organization.)

That was the goal of the meeting in Greece, the “International Experts Symposium on Lifesaving as Olympic Sport.” The event, “highlighted the importance of lifesaving sport as an innovative drowning prevention means that corresponds with the ideals of the Olympic Games.”

Efforts have been underway for many years to push toward Olympic inclusion. The GLSA published a book in 2022, “Lifesaving as an Olympic Sport,” authored by Stathis Avramidis, Ioanna Mastora and John Dimakopoulos. Avramidis is the president of the GLSA.

“The Olympic aspiration of lifesaving is a noble concept because it is a spectacular sport that saves lives from aquatic injuries,” wrote Christian Wacker, president of the International Society of Olympic Historians, in a salutation for the symposium. “In other words, beneath the citius, altius, fortius component, lifesaving has an additional respectable humanitarian core orientation that corresponds profoundly with the Olympic ideals.”

The  meting included eight oral presentations on subjects relevant to Olympic inclusion, including the legacy of lifesaving as a sports and its humanitarian value. Nine awards were given out at the meeting by GLSA, and the organization hosted trips for symposium participants to the Athens Olympic Museum and sites of sporting and cultural importance in Athens.

Full minutes of the meet and conclusions of the symposium are available at the GLSA website.