Tuesday 19 November 2019

Cost of a British Olympic medal expected to double to £4.6 million since 2000

Beth Tweddle, who won a bronze medal in gymnastics, said Lottery funding made all the difference. Photo: ACTION IMAGES
Beth Tweddle, who won a bronze medal in gymnastics, said Lottery funding made all the difference. Photo: ACTION IMAGES

Donna Bowater

WITH Team GB having already won more medals than in Athens or Sydney, the cost of funding for each podium place reveals the rising levels of investment in British sport.

A tally of 38 medals going into day 11 puts Britain on course for one of the country's most successful Games with the chance to win more than 19 gold medals for the first time in 104 years.

Great Britain's impressive form at the Olympics follows a massive cash injection after London won its bid to host the Games. UK Sport's funding increased from £70 million for the 2004 Athens Games to £235 million for Beijing.

This year, it has received £264 million, largely from investment through the National Lottery.

And if British athletes meet projections of collecting 57 medals, the funding equates to £4.6 million per medal compared with £2.1 million for each of Britain's 28 medals in Sydney.

Over the last four Olympics, the price per medal has steadily increased to £5 million for each of Team GB's 47 medals in Beijing.

In total, a combined tally of 143 medals to date since 2000 has cost just over £4 million per medal.

Gymnast Beth Tweddle, who won bronze, credited the National Lottery's backing with the team's success.

The 27-year-old became the first British woman to win an Olympic medal in the individual women's gymnastics and said the funding made a "massive" difference.

Almost 90 per cent of Britain's 542 competitors have benefited from Lottery funding.

Professor David Forrest, a sports economist at the University of Salford, told the BBC: "When Great Britain went to Beijing, the team benefited from £235m investment in training programmes in the years running up to the Olympics – that's a fourfold increase on what was spent [in the run up to Athens].

"We spent an extra £165m and got 17 more medals, so that's about £10m a medal."

But he said the levels of funding necessary to succeed meant there were some sports that were completely out of reach for some of the poorest countries.

He said a study had found there was one swimming pool for every six million people in Ethiopia, preventing champion swimmers from emerging.

"We have identified four sports where there is virtually no chance that anyone from a poor country can win a medal – equestrian, sailing, cycling and swimming," he added.

Figures from UK Sport showed rowing received the most funding at £27.3 million followed by cycling (£26 million), swimming and athletics (both £25.1 million).

The least money is devoted to table tennis (£1.2 million), wrestling (£1.4 million) and weightlifting (£1.37 million).

The Left Wing: Champions Cup returns, Jacob Stockdale's development, and Simon Zebo goes back to Munster

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport