Newspaper article International New York Times

Britain Cashes in on Its Olympic Investment ; Nation Focused Its Efforts on Sports It Could Win and Left Rio with 27 Golds

Newspaper article International New York Times

Britain Cashes in on Its Olympic Investment ; Nation Focused Its Efforts on Sports It Could Win and Left Rio with 27 Golds

Article excerpt

By focusing on sports that offered the best medal prospects, Britain won 27 gold medals at the Rio Games, a huge improvement from 1996.

Twenty years ago, Britain's athletes returned from the Olympics branded as the "team of shame."

Britain had won only one gold medal at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, and finished 36th in the Olympic medal standings, taking home fewer golds than Kazakhstan, Algeria and Ireland.

In this year's Rio Games, though, Britain was second with 27 gold medals, behind only the United States' 46 and ahead of China's 26. Britain's gold medal count was also higher than the country's combined total from the six Games from 1976 to 1996, and the highest tally it has ever recorded in an Olympics not staged in London.

Over all, the United States took home 121 medals, China 70 and Britain 67.

Huge investment is at the heart of Britain's recent success: It finished 10th in medals in 2000 and 2004, fourth in 2008 and third in 2012. After Britain's performance at the 1996 Olympics, it decided to invest funds raised from the national lottery into elite sports, to improve Britain's prospects of performing well in the Games.

About three-quarters of Britain's Olympic funding comes from the national lottery, making it immune to the cuts that have affected much of the government's spending since 2008. In total, funding for Summer Olympic sports has risen to 350 million British pounds in 2016, or about $460 million, from Pounds 59 million, or about $77.5 million, in 1996.

While British athletes who had won medals received grants of about $5,200 a year in 1996, today, athletes who have earned a podium level finish at the Games receive up to about $37,000 a year from U.K. Sport, which allocates funding for the Games, to contribute to their living and personal sporting costs.

U.K. Sport also gives leading athletes support worth about $47,000 to about $79,000, which is spent on coaching and training.

Each medal that Britain has won in Rio has cost, on average, more than $6.5 million.

Britain not only has spent huge amounts on achieving Olympic success but also has been meticulous in how the funding is used. …

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