Lottery is a winner in Rio
How the Olympics became a Major success
Former Prime Minister and cricket-lover Sir John Major is getting his share of the credit for launching the National Lottery In 1994 with one of its aims being to boost funding support for British athletes.
So far £4.4 billion has been pumped into sport – a fifth of the total raised – and, arguably, the results speak for themselves.
Almost 90% of the 542 Britons who competed at London 2012 received lottery support. In Rio, 1,300 competitors were backed by lottery funds and this morning the target of 48 medals has been surpassed by two with five more days of competition remaining. GB sits second in the medals table behind the US and the state-funded Chinese. It has been calculated that each of Team GB’s medals has cost an average of £5.5 million.
Achievement has come across a range of sports. In Atlanta – just two years after the Lottery was launched and before funding arrangements were properly in place – Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent won Britain’s solitary gold in the coxless pairs. That year Britain finished 36th in the medals table.
Traditionally, British athletes have been forced to struggle on meagre support and the dedication of family, friends and amateur coaches, training between full-time jobs in inadequate facilities and living hand-to-mouth to attend events.
Now they get an early helping hand, with funding for coaches as well as athletes to enable them to get the best possible training.
So, does money buy success? It may be difficult to prove conclusively that the National Lottery is the reason for Britain’s success, and some researchers will advise caution. After all, England’s much better paid footballers failed miserably at the Euro 2016 tournament in France.
Even so, there can be few who doubt that providing funds has been influential in driving success at both the London and Rio Olympics.
The level of funding in each sport is assessed each year and measured against results at events that take place to determine whether they are on track for the next Games. This explains why some sports – such as cycling and rowing – continue to receive funding, while others such as women’s volleyball saw their funding withdrawn because they did not win medals at the following Games.
It has also enabled Britain to achieve success in sports such as gymnastics, where a gold medal was once an unthinkable dream against dominant countries such as the US, Russia, China and Romania.
Some have noted that money is not the only factor in achieving success. A new culture and ethos of team building has been evident, from the way the athletes are prepared, to how they present themselves and communicate with each other.
There is a focus on togetherness, on sharing and on reinforcing each other’s hopes and ambitions. This includes the distribution of kit at the Opening Ceremony, and living arrangements during competition.
Also boosting morale has been the willingness of top names to take part. The presence of big names such as Andy Murray, Sir Bradley Wiggins and Justin Rose helps give the team a sense of global might and a belief that they can be world beaters.
Latest Rio medals table: