For a select few world-class athletes, 2012 was the year when they realized their full potential, and stood on the podium with an Olympic gold medal around the neck.
At that specific moment, they may well have contemplated how the help they have received from outside funding sources had ensured that they could have their moment of glory.
The games of summer 2012 represented the culmination of 15 years of funding programs provided by the UK’s National Lottery, so every time you play the lottery you are indirectly helping our athletes take steps towards fulfilling their potential.
The Lottery funding is only part of the story though, as in the six years leading up to the 2012 Games, the coordinating and governing body of British official athletics, UK Sport, received £300million of funding, a large proportion of which, of course, came from the pockets of us, the taxpayers.
In a change from past policy, UK Sport devised a program called Mission 2012 in the years leading up to the Games, which encouraged individual sports to assess how their training and development programs were performing, and to find creative solutions to problems in securing such funding.
Under these programs, 900 athletes, participating in 46 sports, were given support to compete in the Olympics and Paralympics.
Official figures show that the amount spent on funding Team GB participants has risen sharply over the last two Olympic Games. At the Sydney games in 2000, the athletes were funded to the tune of £60million, and were rewarded with 28 medals. Four years later, in Athens, the medal tally rose slightly, to 30, achieved with the help of £70million in funding.
But it was ahead of the 2008 Beijing games that funding took a quantum leap forward. At those games, Team GB earned 47 medals – 19 of them gold – but funding had increased more than three-fold, to £235million.
Of course, as soon as it was announced that the Olympics would be staged in London, seven years before the actual dates, it was clear that funding would have to be looked at afresh, with the hope that the country could be among the leaders in the medals table – the customary position which the hosts have come to enjoy.
However, there was an extra factor to consider in the run-up to the 2012 Games – namely, the state of the British government’s finances. As it was forced to cut spending deeply as part of a medium-term plan to put the country back on an even keel, some promised support had to be cut, leaving outside sources, such as the National Lottery, to pick up the baton, to use an athletics-related phrase.
Early suggestions are, however, that total funding for athletes sporting Team GB colours who competed in the Olympic Games reached a new high, of £264milliion. That helped produce a net result of 65 medals, while the total number of Team GB competitors was 542.
From a few basic calculations, we can see that this meant that each medal cost £4.6million, but if this calculation is extended to all athletes, it shows that the cost of training each of our competitors was just under £500,000. Of course, there will be some whose sports necessitate much higher funding than others because of the equipment and infrastructure required. But one thing that is for sure is that, at the moment when our medal-winning athletes stood on their podia, the amount it cost for each of them to reach that stage was immeasurable in terms of the pride which it brought to the nation.
- License: Creative Commons image source
Sheena Williams is a freelance writer specialising in sports related topics such as football insurance and personal trainer insurance.
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