Historic. Epic. Astonishing. Dazzling. Awe-inspiring. Extraordinary. Mesmerising. Heroic.
Words seem so inadequate when trying to describe what most of us are feeling about Britain’s performance at Rio2016.
The spirit of the Brazilian Olympics started like a slow burning flame. It was most likely sparked here back home on Day 2, when 21-year-old Adam Peaty, won gold for the 100m breaststroke. Then on the same day, Jazmin Carlin, won a silver medal in the 400m freestyle. The days that followed fanned that Olympic spirit flame until it became wilder and swept more and more of us along with it. There was something for everyone – action, drama, thrillers and lovestories – all unfolding live by the second, and it was addictive.
On the second last day of the Games, when we were already gasping at the dreamy results, we were in for more treats:
First, Liam Heath won Gold in the men’s kayak 200m sprint.
… Shortly after that, Vicky Holland was awarded a Bronze medal after her gruelling race in the women’s triathlon,
… then boxing flyweight, 33 year old Nicola Adams, won Gold – becoming the first British boxer to retain an Olympic title in 92 years.
… Next came Bianca Walkden, with a Bronze medal, beating Morocco’s Wiam Dislam.
… Then came one of the highlights for millions around the globe: possibly the greatest TeamGB athlete of his time, Mo Farah ran to clinch his incredible “Double Double”. Witnessing this sporting icon trip and then get back up to take the men’s 5,000m gold medal, was enough to bring many to tears. Indeed, Mo Farah made Olympic history by winning the 5,000m and 10,000m in both the London and Rio games.
But there was more to come. Team GB women’s 4 x 400m relay, won a bronze medal – Ceilidh Doyle, Anyika Onuorh, Emily Diamond and Christine Ohuruogo bringing it home in style.
Super heavyweight boxer Joe Joyce’s silver medal brought the total medal count for Great Britain to an outstanding 67, second in the world to the USA – even beating China, and smashing a 108-year-old national record for most medals won.
Compare that to the 15 medals won in 1996 – which included a solitary gold medal won by Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent, who won the men’s coxless pair in the Atlanta Games.
… That’s a mere 20 years gap between 15 and 67 medals.
For any nation competing, success at the Olympics demands a focussed plan and sufficient funding to implement this plan. Funding is essential to nurture athletes from a young age, through specialist training programmes, by providing subsidies, research, facilities, equipment and expert trainers.
In Britain, the establishment of the National Lottery was pivotal to this plan to succeed, and it started funding the World Class Performance Programme – which was implemented in 1997, after the 1996 Atlanta Olympics result. The British have increased spending on Olympic sports from £5m a year before the 1996 Atlanta Games – when the UK came 36th in the medals tables, to £350m (€410m) by Rio 2016, where it came second.
Regarding focus: The Olympics is a competition where you need to be the best in the world to even qualify. Being a Jack of all Trades and a Master of none is simply not an option here.
After the 1996 Olympics, it was decided to concentrate funding and focus only on sports that we performed in. This decisive move, that caused much controversy worked. By focussing on what British teams had an advantage at already, they already had a foot on the road to a medal. The Brits also concentrated on sports are not hugely popular or widely played – this gave them more of a chance of a medal with less competition – pretty clever “niche market” strategy.
In 2006, the year after London won the right to host the 2012 Games, UK Sport became responsible for all performance funding, which is reflected in figures that have risen from just under £60m for Sydney to the current total for Rio.In essence, every citizen has donated £ 1 per year to the training of this team.
Rio Olympics – the connections that will keep giving:
On the day of the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics, UK trade minister Lord Price said in his speech at British House in Rio that the Olympic Games reminded us all that we are equals united by sport, and that this extended to other areas. He wanted Brazilian investors to know that the UK was “open for business”. He had lead the first trade mission to Argentina in May, before the brexit result was announced, and had said at the time that the growing economies of Latin America offered huge opportunity for British business.
UK suppliers won contracts in excess of £ 150m for the Rio Games, confirming that small firms are keen to trade with South America. FSB national chairman, Mike Cherry has said that the number of small businesses exporting to the continent have increased by 50% over the past five years.
Latin American countries have expressed an interest in striking free trade deals with the UK in the wake of Britain leaving the EU, and Brazil’s foreign minister, José Serra, said last month he would look to open negotiations via Mercosur, the five-member trading bloc.
With our team’s commendable behavior and performance throughout the Games, the cultural diversity in the team and diverse talents represented, Britain has really made it clear to the rest of the planet that this small Great island is Ready to do Great Business with the world.
Team Great Britain – Thank You from every one of us, united as a nation, claiming our place on the podium at the Greatest Show on Earth