After six years of working behind the scenes to help get this summer’s Olympics in London in first-class order, swimming official Sam Greetham is champing at the bit for the Games to get under way.
The Scarborough Swimming Club coach, who has high-ranking roles on international, European and British swimming and watersport bodies, believes that almost everything, in terms of swimmers and facilities, has been in place for the Games since last summer, so is confident the event will be a huge success.”
He said: “We really could have staged these Games a year ago, from an aquatic point of view, the preparation has been very good.
“If anything the success we had at Beijing in 2008 has it made it even more difficult for the GB competitors this time around. With the results in that Games being the best by this country for 100 years, it may be hard to replicate that success at London.
“The pressure is on for the home competitors, and realistically i think we will get five medals from the aquatic programme, having earned six in Beijing.”
Greetham added:”I think our best chance of a gold medal is Rebecca Adlington, while in the marathon swimming I think Kerrie-Anne Payne will get a medal, lets just hope it is a gold.
“I think Tom Daley will get a medal, but I’m not sure it will be a gold. He ccould do well with his partner in the synchronised events.
“Our waterpolo womens team will be doing well if they earn sixth or seventh place, as they are an emerging team, while the men will do well to win a game as they are in the ‘group of death’, then the synchronised swimmers will face a lot of opposition from the Russians.
“The team is as well prpared as they can be and there has been a lot of investment, with the performance directors having come from Australia, Canada, Russia, Hungary and Romania.
“At the Games I will be the lead technical referee for the marathon events, which means I am in charge of who will be disqualified etc.
“It is a massive honour, as from my board I am the only one officiating at London.
“It is tough coming from Scarborough sometimes, as the bigger cities such as Leeds, Newcastle and Sheffield seem to get the most attention.
“What has helped me get where I am is my straight-talking attitude. i am a Yorkshireman and I challenge, if something is wrong i tell people.”
Greetham is a very busy man, with his many coaching and officating duties and committee duties seeing him travel around the world, especially in the build-up to the Olympics.
“Unfortunately they keep moving me into this role as a diplomat recently,” he added.
“I wear three different hats in the swimming community. I sit on an elite body called FINA, the ultimate organisation for all the aquatic sports in the world. Also through being in Great Britain I am with LOCOG, the body responsible for organising London 2012. So anything that falls between those two bodies I am the man who usually deals with that. And finally because I am a director with British Swimming, the performance directors and the swimmers come under my remit.
“We are under pressure to deliver at the Games, but luckily the help of major sponsors such as British Gas have been very financially supportive.
“Everything has been in place for the swimmers and everyone involved to succeed so if we fail to deliver we all fail.
“We want to make London 2012 a once in a lifetime experience.”
Greetham added: “We have invested a lot in the last four years on our coaches from overseas, maybe we should look at our own homegrown coaches if people like Bill Furness have produced top talent like Rebecca Adlington.”
Looking closer to home, Greetham picked out a couple of local stars who could well force their way into the higher echelons of the sport.
He said: “For Ross Glegg, who is 19, the London Olympics is a bit early for him but the Commonwealth Games with Scotland may be better for him.
“He did have the opportunity to go the high performance centre at Stirling, but he has opted to take up the offer of a scholarship in West Virginia, and next month he will fly over to swim freestyle for the university there.
“I don’t think he will find it easy but it is probably an ideal learning experience for him, and he will also have the opportunity to come back and compete in the nationals.”
Greetham is very proud of his Scarborough heritage and believes coming from a seaside town fuelled his interest in swimming.
He added: “I have always had this affinity to water and maybe this is why I have always been interested in the marathon swimming. From the Castle Foot swim in the 1960s to swimming in the open air North Bay pool and having a chalet on the North side, water has always played a big part in my life.”
“Scarborough is funny in so much as we forget we are tourism and community, not just tourism.”
Greetham was also critical of the proposed sports village in Weaponness.
“Regarding the move to the Weaponness sports village I don’t think it is the right time to be making that move. I have seen the plans and i don’t think it stacks up.
“Coming from a construction background i think that they could have extended the indoor pool to 10 lanes and built onto the car park.
“Most pools can be moved to arenas and the seats can be built around them so you don’t really see pools built from scratch anymore.
“As for the football stadium, they could have kept one at Seamer Road. I know going back that various business people in the town were willing to invest money and reduce the seating and make it into an academy-type venue that promoted sports sciences and encompassed all sports.
“They could have stayed down there and that would have been a better legacy.
“Going back to my days involved in the Scarborough & District League, it was a big honour to play in the cup finals at the Athletic Ground, and now a whole generation have lost that chance.
“If you go back to any community’s history, the first thing that is built is a pub, a church and a football ground, and I believe they cut the heart out of the community with what happened at Seamer Road.”