Dubai: The eyes of the world will be on London and Great Britain as a whole when the Olympics circus sets up camp in late July, so the likes of Prime Minister David Cameron and 2012 Games supremo Sebastian Coe will be desperate to make sure the enduring image of the event isn't a picture of heavy security, transport chaos and fast foot brands.
Instead they will be aiming to project Britain's organisational talents, ability to thrive in adversity and the nation's fair play ideals. Rebecca Adlington, Steve Redgrave, Kelly Holmes — winning athletes with down-to-earth personalities — are the characters Britain tends to take to its collective heart.
Liam Tancock is another character the country should be using worldwide to show what it means to come from the green and pleasant land.
A hugely talented swimmer — 50m backstroke world record holder, three-time world champion and five-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist — his drive to succeed is impressive, but his persona is amiable, open and entirely bereft of airs and graces. Speak to him casually or stick a microphone under his nose in front of thousands of people, his personality won't change.
Tancock's favoured event, the 50m backstroke, is the source of his greatest achievements, but it isn't an Olympic event, meaning he has been forced to work tirelessly to improve his stamina since fading to finish sixth in the 100m final in Beijing four years ago.
Now aged 27 and theoretically at the peak of his career, the Exeter-born star admits his single-minded desire to win has been ingrained in him since childhood.
“My friends and family would never say I was selfish or anything, but they would say I was a very focused person,” he said recently. “I wouldn't do anything half-heartedly — I'd go out and give it everything.
“Growing up I guess you can apply it to anything — going down the beach and going crab fishing. I'd put everything into crab fishing, it would be amazing. I was never really: ‘I've done this, you've done that' — I was never that sort of kid — I enjoyed the process more than the outcome.
“It would be great to catch a crab, yes, but I would be out there for hours on the rock pools, absolutely loving it. I'd love it and be out there for hours and hours and not even realise what the time is. All of a sudden three hours had gone and I'd missed my lunch and it would be time to go home. Basically, if I put something into it, I am all in.”
Tancock is something of a small-town boy — he regularly returns to Devon from his Loughborough training base to visit his parents in their modest house in the Exeter suburbs — and the city certainly celebrates his many successes.
From a civic reception and open-top bus parade after his World Championship glory, to being paraded as a hero on the pitches of Exeter's two professional sports teams, Tancock is a prominent figure in the relatively little-known provincial city.
The headline on the biography on his official website proclaims: “I was born and bred in Exeter, I'm a Devonian and I'm proud to be British.”
And Tancock believes his and his teammates' home advantage in London this summer will give them a significant advantage. “We have just had our first training camp with the British team of swimmers for the Games and we got to spend a concentrated amount of time at the Olympic pool,” he said.
“I can't say enough about what a huge benefit that is — to get the chance to be in and around the Olympic pool could make all the difference.
“The fact the whole crowd will be screaming for us is obviously a huge boost and will get the adrenalin pumping like never before when you're walking out for your race.
“But it's the little things that you get from knowing your surroundings that are just as important in an event like mine, where every tenth or even hundredth of a second is crucial.
“Just knowing things like how long it takes to get from the warm-up area to the pool, where the physios are going to be or even something as mundane as where the nearest toilets are could be massive.”
And Tancock believes the only thing stopping him from collecting gold for his country at the London Games this summer is himself. “My biggest enemy is myself,” he said. “It would not matter if I was racing my biggest rival from the Devon area or against the best swimmer in the world.
“I just try and push myself on. I can see where people are coming from [the added pressure of a home Olympics] but all I can focus on is what I can affect myself. British swimmers have been doing fantastic recently. From about 2007 onwards they have been riding the crest of the wave and have done superbly at the Olympics, the World Championships and the Europeans.
“To be honest though, I am very much focused on myself. Swimming is one of those great sports where you can't affect anybody else. You just have your own lane and yourself to concentrate on.”