British athletes made “sporting history” at Rio 2016, but their bosses believe Tokyo 2020 could be even better.
The team arrived in Brazil with the target of winning 48 medals to make Rio 2016 Britain’s best ever ‘away’ Games, but ended up with 67 medals — two more than London’s remarkable haul — and second in the medal table ahead of China.
“We’re making sporting history — 67 medals, nearly 130 medallists, across 19 sports,” said UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl.
“Even the sporting superpowers haven’t done that in the past, but we are one of those now.”
BOA chief Bill Sweeney agreed with Nicholl and praised the teamwork and “20 years of investment” that have combined to produce “this outstanding performance”.
“Since National Lottery funding started in 1997, we have had five consecutive (summer) Olympic Games of medal growth — no other country has come close to that,” said Sweeney.
It is an oft-repeated statistic that Team GB finished 36th in the medal table, with just one gold, at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
A year later, UK Sport was created for the purpose of allocating National Lottery and public funding to elite Olympic and Paralympic sport.
When super-heavyweight Joe Joyce fought for gold last night, his medal will be the 700th won by Britain in Olympics and Paralympics since lottery funding started.
Nicholl explained that 40% of the £275m (€317.5m) UK Sport gave to sports in the Olympic summer programme over the last four years is actually earmarked for Tokyo on a rolling eight-year investment plan.
Much of the Rio money went on the holding camp in Belo Horizonte — widely regarded to have been the best any team here enjoyed — and in finding solutions to Rio’s various accommodation and transport “challenges”.
Sweeney said one of Britain’s best ideas was to move some athletes — the rowers and sailors, for example — out of the athletes’ village to hotels near their venues. This clearly cost money and would be more expensive in Tokyo.
There are those, though, who have questioned the value for money — and even the ethics — of spending £4m (€4.6m) per medal.
Nicholl, however, is adamant that Britain’s success is worth every penny.
“We have all seen and felt the impact of our medal success — it can inspire the nation,” she said.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved