Mmedals. Moments. And now more. This was the message from the GB team chiefs after an amazing 16 days in Tokyo, during which Britain not only matched their London 2012 medal harvest, but also ventured into new areas and unexpected events, including BMX, skateboarding and weightlifting.
There were also performances of soul and sparkle, with athletes such as Jonny Brownlee and Tom Daley beaming as they climbed to the top of the podium after so many near misses. Familiar favorites such as Jason and Laura Kenny and Charlotte Dujardin have matured their legacy. And the sight of new working class heroes like Emily Campbell, throwing 60 pounds over her head to win silver. White, black, rich, poor: all were represented. Team GB has never looked more like a typical GB.
Such encouraging performances also brought a temporary truce to a nation that apparently lives in a state of semi-permanent turmoil. The Olympics have a way of doing it. But usually the feel-good factor wears off even before Team GB’s plane has landed at Heathrow. Now come on the hard pieces. Ensuring that this changes and that the millions thrown into high performance sport also create a lasting legacy for the grassroots. Encouragingly, this is something British Olympic Association Managing Director Andy Anson and UK Sport President Dame Katherine Grainger appeared to acknowledge on Sunday night.
“I think we would all agree that the legacy of previous Olympic successes doesn’t necessarily translate into popular participation in the way we all would like,” admitted Anson. “We need to do a lot more. I have had several conversations with British athletes. They want to help. They are actually passionate about driving participation. They believe it is part of their role. I think that’s incumbent on us.
He added, “We have to work with these athletes to help them get people to participate in sports. We plan to transform our Team GB into a 24/7/365 brand, using the athletes to really interact and drive the health program. We have to get there this time. Amen to that.
The statistics for any form of participation are particularly frightening. About 22 million people in this country get less than 30 minutes of activity per week, compared to the recommendation of 30 minutes per day. It will take time, commitment and money – things politicians are not always ready to give. But the success of Team GB over the past 25 years since John Major introduced lottery funding shows what can happen with will, skill and a lot of money.
It almost seems odd that the GB team received £ 59million for the Sydney Games in 2000 and £ 70million for Athens in 2004, given that the numbers were quickly overwhelmed by London who won the right to host the Olympic Games in 2012. For these Olympic Games in Tokyo, UK Sport had 345 million pounds to be distributed among different sports. For Paris 2024, it will be £ 352 million.
These are large sums. But they won’t mean much if the next generation of Kenny, Muir, and Campbell don’t have facilities for biking, running, and lifting, or the roads aren’t safe enough for biking. Sometimes it’s even more fundamental than that. As former Olympian Professor Greg Whyte says, often the biggest challenge isn’t getting people to do Couch to 5K, but simply Couch at the front door.
Above all, politicians seem to be on board. When asked last week if the government would launch an education campaign to get more people active an hour a day, Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston suggested that British Olympic stars could convey this message more effectively .
“Sports personalities have always been fantastic to say, ‘How can I help? “And I think we have to take this offer a little more aggressively,” he said. “Because the messages coming from them are going to be more effective than coming from the politicians. I’ll knock on their doors. We have the momentum and a golden opportunity – we need to make sure activity levels are on the rise.
This challenge, however, can wait a day or two. For now, FOB can rightly take advantage of the young British side who rose to fourth in the standings with 65 medals, including 22 gold, after their hard work and astute planning bore their toll. fruits.
Subsequently, Team GB Chef de Mission Mark England cited a number of factors as helping – including the astute decision to book a warm-up camp in Yokohama and keep it when the Games could have been held. canceled, and also carrying out 20,000 PCR tests to ensure that every British athlete in Japan made it to the start line, in the midst of a pandemic.
Meanwhile, the new management of UK Sport – who for the past three years have sought to improve the culture after a series of damaging allegations across several sports – will also be relieved. This shows that the carrot of a medal does not need to be supported by a sharp stick, despite what some may think. As five-time Olympian Grainger admitted: “Everyone felt pretty strongly that this didn’t have to be the way, and shouldn’t be the way.
Now, however, she has a new challenge in mind. “Our athletes are incredible role models in society for sport and much more widely,” she said. “Our next step is to make sure it’s not just ‘you see them once every four years, then again four years later” … we have to make sure that we tell these stories all year round. . ” The devil, as always, will be in the details.