With just five weeks to go before the start of the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games, British athletes are “on target and where we would want to be in terms of medal prospects”, according to John Steele, Chief Executive of UK Sport, the nation’s elite sport agency.
He says: “After four years’ hard work, Beijing has the potential to be a memorable Games for Team GB’s athletes. While recent injuries and withdrawals have highlighted just how risky and uncertain top level sport can be, we believe there is every reason to be confident that medal success will be achieved. That would be a great result – the targets are ambitious and reaching them would be the best boycott-free medal performance by Britain for nearly a hundred years. Crucially they will also show whether we are on track towards our ultimate goals for London 2012.”
Steele’s comments came at UK Sport’s latest quarterly Mission 2012 briefing, which unveiled each sport’s medal target for the Beijing Games. UK Sport is targeting an 8th place finish overall in the Olympic medal table which, boycotted Games apart, should require the best medal performance by a British team since 1920.
With the host nation predicted to dominate, the target for Britain’s Paralympic team is to hold on to the 2nd place in the table achieved in both Sydney and Athens.
The medal targets – set by sports and signed off by UK Sport – suggest that the main contributors to Team GB’s Olympic medal haul will be the now traditional group of Cycling (6 medals), Athletics (5), Sailing (4) and Rowing (4). But with significant increased investment across the system now in place ahead of the London Games in 2012, 17 sports will travel to Beijing with ambitions for their athletes to reach the medal podium.
The total of medals targeted across the sports is 41 – however this is a “stretch” target as experience from previous Games shows that, given the very tight margins between success and failure at this level, not every single medal will be won. UK Sport believes a conversion rate of 85% will be required to achieve the overall target: bringing 35 medals, around a third of which should be gold. Tenth place in the medal table was achieved in Athens with 30 medals, and nine golds.
For the Paralympics, the sports’ “stretch” target is 112 medals. This converts to UK Sport targeting around 95 medals, of which around 35 will need to be gold to achieve 2nd place in the table – and almost exactly the same amounts as those won by our athletes in Athens.
Steele continued: “We have worked very hard in partnership with the sports to ensure that our athletes can go to the start line in Beijing knowing that they have had the best possible support and preparation. Our thinking however has already turned to how we can improve that support yet further during the lead-up to the biggest sporting event this nation has ever hosted.
Minister for Sport Gerry Sutcliffe echoed the same sentiment: “We are investing a record amount of public money in our elite athletes and hope to see that transferred into medal success in Beijing this summer and then in London in 2012.
“We have made great progress in some sports with the recent World Championship performances of our cycling and swimming teams encouraging ahead of the Games. But, of course, there is no room for complacency and sports and athletes must continue to try and up their game as the margins between winning and losing are so fine. Mission 2012 is vital in ensuring that sports are moving in the right direction.”
The results posted on UK Sport’s Mission 2012 ‘Tracker Boards’ at their London headquarters show that progress in terms of sports’ overall performance is good. Six Olympic and four Paralympic sports have shown they are well placed to deliver against their potential, with green traffic lights against all three of the dimensions that look at athletes, the system that sits behind them and the performance climate within the sport.
In total, 15 sports are now rated green overall. The outcome was not one that had set alarm bells ringing at UK Sport as John Steele explained: “The results published today from our latest Mission 2012 assessment suggest that, while we are making significant progress towards London, there are some significant challenges that must be overcome if we are to perform to our full potential in 2012.
“The amount of sports with an overall Mission 2012 rating of ‘Amber’ is not a surprise or indeed a worry. What it does do is demonstrate the honesty that exists within the process. Indeed, I would be more worried if more sports considered themselves to be ‘Green’ across the board, with no challenges to address as that could hint at a sense of complacency.”
Whilst some issues raised earlier in the year have been addressed, some significant challenges remain. Mission 2012 assessments have revealed that Boxing, Weightlifting, Powerlifting and Sitting Volleyball all have issues with respect to the governance of the sports that, if not tackled, threaten their future performance potential. UK Sport will now seek to work with the sports concerned to ensure that the red light concerns are resolved as soon as possible.
UK Sport also announced at the briefing that its “no compromise” approach to investment in Olympic and Paralympic sport will continue to apply for London 2012. That will mean that sports will receive funding according to a mix of their performance in Beijing and an assessment of their future potential to win medals. Sports will be made aware of provisional levels of funding shortly after the Games in Beijing, with final investment figures for 2009-2013 confirmed by UK Sport in December 2008.
For more information, a copy of the sport by sport targets or for an interview, please contact:
Matthew Crawcour 020 7211 5106 / 07836 230704
Jessica Whitehorn 020 7211 5174 / 07747 562532
Mission 2012 is designed to evaluate the progress of every summer Olympic and Paralympic Sport in three ‘dimensions’:
The Athletes – their performance, development, health and wellbeing
The System – the places, structures, processes, people and expertise that deliver the programme
The Climate – the feel, functionality and culture experienced by athletes and staff
Sports will allocate an overall ‘traffic light’ colour status for the World Class Programme that most accurately reflects the conclusions drawn from the three dimensions, together with a short summary explanation.
Each quarter their report will be analysed by UK Sport, any issues or disagreements will be flagged up to the Mission 2012 Expert Performance Panels for Olympic and Paralympic sport. These include Steve Cram, Sir Clive Woodward and Rod Carr on the Olympic side, and Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, Sue Wolstenholme and Chris Holmes on the Paralympic. The Panels will determine the final outcome for each sport. These will then be placed on a dedicated Mission 2012 Tracker Board so that progress can be analysed in an immediate and visual way.
UK Sport is the nation’s high-performance sports agency. Its mission is to work in partnership to lead sport in the UK to world class success. Primarily this means working with partner sporting organisations to deliver medals at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. It also has responsibility for activities best delivered at a UK level, such as: the nation’s anti-doping programme, bidding for and staging major sporting events in this country and increasing sporting activity and influence overseas.