Friday, December 3

Team GB bosses applaud the joy of Tokyo 2020 and promise more to come | Tokyo 2020 Olympics

METERedals. Moments And now more. That was the message that emanated from the GB team bosses after an extraordinary 16 days in Tokyo, during which Great Britain not only matched their medal table at London 2012, but made their way into new and unexpected areas such as BMX, skateboarding. and weight lifting.

There were also performances of soul and glow, with athletes like Jonny Brownlee and Tom Daley beaming as they climbed to the top step of the podium after so many near misses. Family favorites like Jason and Laura Kenny and Charlotte Dujardin matured their legacy. And the sight of new working class heroes like Emily Campbell, pushing 161kg over her head to win silver. White, black, rich, poor: all were represented. The GB computer has never looked more like the typical GB.

Such encouraging performances also brought a temporary truce to a nation apparently living in a state of semi-permanent turmoil. The Olympics have a way of doing that. But usually, the feel-good factor wears off before Team GB’s plane lands at Heathrow. Now for the hard parts. Make sure this changes and that the millions devoted to elite sport create a lasting legacy for the grassroots as well. Encouragingly, that’s something British Olympic Association Executive Director Andy Anson and UK Sports President Dame Katherine Grainger seemed to acknowledge on Sunday night.

“I think we would all agree that the legacy of past Olympic success does not necessarily translate into grassroots participation in the way that we all would like,” admitted Anson. “We have to do much more. I have had several conversations with athletes from GB. They want to help. In fact, they are passionate about driving participation. They think it is part of their role. I think it’s up to us. “

He added: “We have to work with these athletes to help them influence people to participate in sports. We are looking to turn our Team GB into a 365 days a day, 7 days a week brand, using athletes to really interact and drive the health agenda. We have to make it happen this time. “Love that.

The statistics on any kind of participation are particularly chilling. Around 22 million people in this country do less than 30 minutes of activity a week, when the recommendation is 30 minutes a day. It will take time, commitment and cash, things that politicians are not always willing to give. But the success of Team GB over the past 25 years, since John Major introduced lottery financing, shows what can happen with will, skill and lots of cash.

The French aerobatic team Patrouille de France flies over the Eiffel Tower during the Olympic award ceremony
The French aerobatic team Patrouille de France flies over the Eiffel Tower during the Olympic award ceremony. UK Sport will have £ 352 million to spend on the 2024 Games. Photography: Vincent Koebel / NurPhoto / Shutterstock

It seems almost strange that Team GB was awarded £ 59 million for the Sydney Games in 2000 and £ 70 million for Athens in 2004, given that the figures were soon supercharged when London won the right to host the 2012 Olympics. For these Olympic Games in Tokyo, UK Sport had 345 million pounds to distribute in different sports. By Paris 2024 it will be 352 million pounds sterling.

They are large sums. But they will mean little if the next generation of Kennys, Muirs and Campbells do not have facilities for biking, running and lifting, or if the roads are not safe enough for biking. Sometimes it is even more fundamental than that. As Professor Greg Whyte, a former Olympian, says, the biggest challenge is often not getting people to Couch to 5K, but simply Couch to the front door.

Fundamentally, politicians seem to agree. When asked last week if the government would launch an educational push to get more people activated for an hour a day, Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston suggested that Britain’s Olympic stars could carry that message further. effective.

“Sports personalities have always been great at saying, ‘How can I help?’ And I think we should take on that offer a little more aggressively, “he said. “Because the messages that come from them are going to be more effective than those that come from the politicians. I’ll be knocking on your doors. We have momentum and a golden opportunity: we have to make sure activity levels are high. “

That challenge, however, can wait a day or two. For now, the BOA can rightly enjoy the young British team rising to fourth place in the table with 65 medals, including 22 gold, after their hard work and shrewd planning paid off.

Subsequently, GB Team Mission Chief Mark England cited a number of factors that helped, including the shrewd decision to book a prep camp in Yokohama and hold it when the Games might have been canceled, and also run 20,000 PCR tests to ensure that all GB athletes in Japan made it to the starting line, in the midst of a pandemic.

Meanwhile, UK Sport’s new management, which for the past three years has tried to improve the culture after a series of damaging allegations across multiple sports, will also be relieved. It shows that the carrot in a medal does not need to be backed by a sharp stick, despite what some may think. As five-time Olympian Grainger admitted: “Everyone felt strongly that that didn’t have to be the way, and it shouldn’t be the way.”

Now, however, you have a new challenge in mind. “Our athletes are incredible role models in society for sports and so much more,” he said. “Our next step is to make sure this is not just ‘you see them once every four years, and then again four years later’ … we have to make sure we are telling those stories throughout the year.” The devil, as always, will be in the details.

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