Team GB is sitting comfortably at the top of the Olympics medal table, rubbing shoulders with the likes of USA and China. But how can a country with a population so proportionally small compared to these territorial giants, be standing its ground with its silverware achievements? The answer is simple, funding.
Thanks to national lottery funding, £355 million was ploughed into preparing our sportsmen and women for this year’s Olympics and Paralympics. That’s 75% of the UK Sport’s budget. This huge investment seems to have been money well spent, as Team GB is expected to bypass predicted medal expectations in a bid to eclipse the London 2012 medal haul.
The allocation of lottery funding has allowed Team GB to focus on nurturing talent, hiring the top coaches and investing in technology. Scientifically advanced cycling suits swathe the likes of Laura Trott and fiancée Jason Kenny, from the polished helmet down to the smallest stitch on the one-piece, every detail is optimised for streamlining. Every penny has been spent on ensuring Team GB make an impact at Rio.
According to the Independent, for many countries the investment in athletes comes after the Olympics, as gold medal winners receive financial rewards, incentivising competitors to win. Australia gifts $15,000 to those decorated with gold, South Africa gives their winning athletes $36,000 with Singapore offering a huge $753,000. Team GB on the other hand receives a pat on the back and are granted the honour of representing their country.
The successes of John Major’s incentive to improve sport within Great Britain is evident from London 2012 and now Rio 2016. The investments in athletes: hypothecated tax and lottery funding gives them the resources they need to be at the top of their game. MEDCs are investing money in sporting objectives years before the athletes take to the world stage, whereas LEDCs offer monetary incentives for medal wins with little prior investment.
There is a direct correlation between how much the country invests in their sports and the medal table. USA, UK and China plough money into the industry to ensure that they maintain a lead in the ranks and they succeed in doing so, dominating most events through the two-week competition. Successful athletes will return home to offers of sponsorship and further investment in training ready for Tokyo 2020. The hours of dedication and sacrifice will be compensated.
Take Michael Phelps for example. His expenses total over $100,000 each year and has been in training for the last decade. That’s over a million dollars invested in the development of competitive swimmer that only takes to the global stage once every four years. Homegrown Adam Peaty hasn’t received such an investment, However David Wilkie, previous Olympics breaststroke winner, says that, “Becoming an Olympic champion is going to increase Adam's commercial value. I don't know if his priority is to make a lot of money, but that's what swimming and winning does, with an Olympic gold medal to back it up. If you were to put a value on an Olympic swimming gold medal now, I'd say it is about £1 million today.”
Is the Olympics a level playing field? No, it’s not. And it seems as though the Anti-Olympic movement is gaining some momentum, with issues such as this becoming predominant. The once ‘sporting competition’ has become somewhat of a commercial operation, and many countries have now pulled out of bidding after witnessing the negative impact it can have on the country’s economic infrastructure.
Host countries, Athens, Montreal and now Rio have experienced negative economic issues post Olympics. For example, the $12 billion project that’s been developed in Rio, a country stricken with poverty, is a drop in the (algae green diving) pool compared to the amount of money it would need to get their budget right. In fact, they would have to save five times this amount each year to make equal.
Senior research fellow at the University of Zurich, Christopher Gaffney, describes how, “Wherever we see an educated population that has a relatively free press, relatively high levels of governmental transparency, and that has put it up for a referendum, in every one of those cases we have seen the Olympics be rejected. Without exception.” It seems as though nobody wants to play host anymore.
It is inspiring and truly exciting viewing, but does it needs to be brought back to its roots? We could use the resources we already have, beautiful stadiums sporadically situated across the globe. Instead of building Olympic stadia every 4 years and plunging host countries into billions of dollars into debt, we could use existing stadiums where facilities and strong infrastructure already exist. Money could be used to make sports more widely available to everyone, everywhere instead of just funnelling it into the elite.
After Rio, a few questions need to be asked to the IOC. How can we make investment in sport equal, so that no country has an unfair advantage? And more importantly, where lies the future of the Olympic Games?
By Hannah Richards, Content Executive at Amplified Business Content