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Is Britain an Olympic superpower?

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Matt Slater | 16:03 UK time, Monday, 26 January 2009

There was a wonderful moment towards the end of Five Live Sport's London 2012 special last week when co-host Steve Parry got a bit carried away with the excitement of it all and declared that Britain had become an "Olympic superpower".

My initial reaction was to think, "Steady on, Steve, does superpower status really go down as far as fourth place in the table?" I'm fairly sure there were only two superpowers after all the medals were dished out in 1945.

And shouldn't we perhaps do it a few more times to suggest we have really arrived? After all, England were a rugby union superpower in 2003, and I'm sure there was talk of cricket supremacy in 2005. Might it be an idea to try this under-promise, over-deliver stuff my wife has mentioned in relation to my DIY skills?

And then I thought again (it happens). Why shouldn't Steve call it as he sees it?

Beijing stars Chris Hoy and Rebecca Adlington

Because if you're willing to look beyond the rattling of football's transfer window - who would have thought that Jonathan Ross is now worth only one and a bit Craig Bellamys? - it's possible to find evidence Parry might be on to something. And last week that evidence was in ready supply.

Youth sport doesn't get much of a look-in, media-wise, in this country, even football.

Perhaps the most encouraging performance of recent years by (male) footballers in an England shirt came at the 2007 European Under-21 Championships in the Netherlands. The team was minutes away from the final - England's first in the competition since 1984 - when the hosts scored to send the game to extra time. Penalties followed, 32 of them, and you can probably guess the rest.

The team's Dutch courage attracted some interest but the bigger story for most was David Bentley's decision not to play in the tournament so he could rest up for the upcoming Premier League campaign.

But the main point is that it was a rare good showing by a British team at that level. Italy has dominated the competition for 20 years. Need I say more?

So that is why I was so impressed with Team GB's showing at the 2009 Australian Youth Olympic Festival, a five-day multi-sports event for 13 to 19-year-olds.

Britain's tally was 68 medals, 26 of them gold: a significant improvement on the fine AYOF debut they made in 2007, when they went home with 14 golds in their 48-medal haul, and more than enough to suggest there is more to come from our Olympians in 2012 and beyond.

What was most encouraging about the performances was their range. Team GB sent competitors for 11 of the 17 sports on the schedule. It won golds in nine of those and medals in all but one.

Louis Smith on his way to a bronze medal in Beijing

There was the customary return on investment from rowing - seven golds, two silvers and three bronzes - and further evidence that British gymnastics is on a rapid upward curve - five golds, five silvers and eight bronzes.

But even more impressive were the results posted by fencing and shooting, both winning eight medals, four gold for the fencers and three for the shooters: impressive and surprising given recent 2012 funding announcements.

OK, most of the powerhouses of the piste from Europe were absent, as were many of the top Asian shooting nations, but there were 22 other national teams at the festival, with major delegations from China, Japan and the US, as well as a massive Australian team.

These medals weren't just handed out for turning up - the AYOF is a proven testing ground for future Olympic success.

There were 2007 AYOF-ers in British colours in Beijing, two of whom, gymnast Louis Smith and rower Tom Lucy, medalled at both events. You might also have heard of another of the eight, diver Tom Daley. And the Australians have been using the AYOF as a dry run for its first team since 2001.

In fact, so seriously do the Australians take this event they almost didn't invite us - they were worried it would help our 2012 preparations, an offence tantamount to treason after our "Olympic Ashes" success in Beijing.

So those medals for fencing and shooting, two sports that are still waiting to hear what their (greatly reduced) budgets for London 2012 will be, mattered.

As GB fencing coach Graham Watts said after watching his squad claim the men's and women's team titles: "This was way more than I hoped for. I expected us to medal, because we are such a strong team, but to win all gold is just absolutely fantastic."

Not bad for a sport whose "performance pipeline" was supposed to be too dry to warrant lubricating over the next four years (and yes, fencing fans, I have noticed Richard Kruse's recent results too).

I could pick out similar statements from coaches throughout the British team but it would become a bit repetitive and I'd almost certainly upset somebody by forgetting them.

But before I move on I'd like to give a special mention in despatches to one of Britain's last gold-medal winning teams in Sydney, the women's hockey squad. They repeated their 2007 success by beating Australia in extra time. Enough said.

So where else are those green shoots of superpower status popping up, then?

Well, it's early days yet but there are signs there is something stirring under the ice and snow too. Winter sport, for decades the poor relation in the British Olympic family, is also on the up.

The British Olympic Association likes to keep tabs on our global standing during non-Olympic years by totting up results in leading competitions. While last year saw empirical proof of Britain's progress on the summer schedule, Team GB also climbed from 25th to 12th in the unofficial winter pecking order.

That rise was down to Kristan Bromley's gold at the Skeleton Bob World Championships, the Scottish men's silver at the curling worlds and a men's relay bronze at the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships.

Turin 2006 star Shelley Rudman in action

So it doesn't include the gold Shelley Rudman (who claimed a silver medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics and currently leads the World Cup rankings) won at the European Skeleton Bob Championships earlier this month, or Sinead and John Kerr's European ice dance bronze, Britain's first medal at that level for 15 years.

These are superbly encouraging results with the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver now just a year away.

Will they strike fear into the US, Russia and the Alpine nations? No, probably not. But you can bet the rest of the world is looking closely at our lottery-funded sports model and wondering what else we're doing right.

You can also forgive the likes of Steve Parry, who won Britain's first Olympic swimming medal for eight years in Athens, for lapsing into hyperbole when discussing Team GB's fortunes.

He remembers a (not too distant) time when a plucky bronze or 10th in the medal table was the Everest of our ambitions. He's not jealous of this, he is encouraged and energised.

So is Britain an Olympic superpower? Nah. But I know what Steve means, and I like it.


  • Comment number 1.

    Quote 'After all, we were a rugby union superpower in 2003, and I'm sure there was talk of cricket supremacy in 2005'

    Since when where GB competing in rugby and cricket?

  • Comment number 2.

    ScotinSwede ,
    you forgot to mention one thing. Before murrays loss to Verdasco in melbourne, Britain was the superpower in tennis too...

  • Comment number 3.

    OK, ScotinSwede, I could say Britain and Ireland compete as the Lions in rugby and the England cricket team is effectively the British team (it's the England and Wales Cricket Board, after all, and the likes of Mike Denness and Douglas Jardine have captained the side....Irishman Ed Joyce has turned out for them too in recent years) but I'll admit it, you caught me out with a careless "we". Well done. I'll change it to England.

    Any thoughts on the British Olympic team? Either of them. Lots of Scots (and Welsh and N Irish) in them.

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi Matt

    Enjoyed the read, thank you.

    I have a quick question - could you give a brief rundown of the major nations who didn't attend the AYOF? (I'm too lazy/internet-incompetent to find out myself).

    I was thinking particularly of the fencing results, as this discipline tends to have its power base in a select number of European countries.

    Not intending to do down the British effort, mind, I agree the medal haul is wonderful.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi hermannredux, in terms of major Olympic nations that did not attend the AYOF, you're talking about France, Germany, Italy and Russia, which obviously has a massive impact on the quality of the field in the fencing tournament. On top of that, I'm fairly sure China and the US didn't send any fencers to Sydney, so that lowers the standard again. The results page on the official site appears to be redirecting to the Australian Olympic Committee's home page at the moment so I can't tell for sure who took part in the fencing comp but I would guess that it was more like a Commonwealth event, with us, the Aussies, Kiwis, Indians and maybe a few others in there. OK, not a great line-up, but to go to Australia and top the fencing medal table so convincingly is a fine achievement. I also notice that one of our team gold medalists, Jonathan May, came 5th at the last World U-17 tournament. So there is definitely talent in the system.

  • Comment number 6.

    ok, thanks. Any morale-boosting results are worth having, and winning gold in any competition always gives you the extra experience of actually winning something - invaluable.

    If we had to nit-pick a bit, and based purely on world cup results, England is pretty close to a superpower in rugby.

    In terms of finals and wins, England has reached 3 finals and won one, just behind Australia (3 finals, 2 wins) and South Africa (2 finals, 2 wins), but ahead of New Zealand (2 finals, 1 win) and France (2 finals, zero wins).

    England also has won the most grand slams in the 6 nations and English clubs have won the most European Cups, despite being clubs rather than regional franchises.

    But I'll grant you that if you factor in autumn tests and summer tours, not to mention recebnt form, England just about scrambles into the second division of rugby - distinctly underpower rather than superpower.

  • Comment number 7.

    I typical British fashion, you turn what could be a 'celebration' of British sport into a cringe worthy article questioning "are we good enough?"

    This is an Australian event, organised by Australia with invitations being sent out to competitors across the globe. Rather than trying to stoke the fires of nationalism by having a dig at the aussies; you should really be thanking them for putting on an event such as this.

    It might be worth pointing out that the Olympic Youth Games, don't actually have medal tallies. These things are deliberately avoided so that youth sport and competition can be enjoyed without the associated nationalistic jingoism that usually accompanies such events....usually from journalists.

    Bit of an own goal here but perhaps if you put your petty jealousies of Australia aside, and got over the sporting chip on your shoulder, then perhaps you could enjoy and write about the AYOG in the spirit in which the competition is held.

    The medal count you

  • Comment number 8.

    Matt - any chance you can give us a breakdown of the shooting related element? It (as you say above) is ever more interesting in light of the falling levels of investment by UK Sport - it's not too hard to remember the heady days of 2000-2002, when Faulds won a Gold in Sydney and the Commonwealths were held at Bisley. Now it seems it's the long forgotten sport of the BOA.

  • Comment number 9.

    Its hardly suprising that the improvements that have been made to our olympic team coincide with extra funding. I predict that improvements will continue as we are now finally investing in younger athletes. Programmes such as the talented athlete support scheme (TASS) provide an excellent base for new talent.

    Another reason for the improvement in performance is the funding provided to the support staff. Behind every athlete is an effective team! All athletes now have access to some of the best coaches nutritionists, psychologists, physiologists etc through the EIS. We copied the Australian system and I wouldnt be suprised to see them no copy us!

    However to say we are a superpower is a bit over the top. The only superpowers are China and USA and im sure that will continue for a long time but i think we can definatley be the best of the rest!

  • Comment number 10.

    Strewth, CrickeyBouncer, I don't think I have ever read a better definition of the phrase "pot calling kettle black". Nice work.

    "Stoke the fires of nationalism..."?!? Oh dear. That one left me AGOG.

    Jordan D, I can't find the full details of the shooting event (that web page is going the same way as the fencing results) but I know the competing nations were GB, Australia, Malaysia, NZ, Singapore and "Oceania". The golds we won were: James Huckle (10m air rifle), Rory McAlpine (50m rifle prone) and Hannah Polak (25m pistol). We also won three silvers and two bronzes. The Malaysians won four golds, including three of the four women's events.

  • Comment number 11.

    To the very first post Scotinswede.....

    That i believe is what the article is about, people getting carried away and look what happens: We have been poor in rugby since winning the world cup, we have been poor in cricket since winning the ashes.

    Hence the article stating lets not get carried away with the success of 2008 olympics.

  • Comment number 12.

    but at the same time, it's good to be optimistic for the future of our sports.

  • Comment number 13.

    "Irishman Ed Joyce has turned out for them [England cricket team] too in recent years"

    Firstly, Ed had to qualify in the same way that Pietersen, Lamb, Hick etc. had to qualify.

    Secondly, the Republic Of Ireland, where Ed is from, is not in the UK.

  • Comment number 14.

    Hi Matt,
    Just a correction on your quote in regards to the U21 euro championships -

    "But the main poin is that it was a rare good showing by a British team at that level "

    What about the Scottish U19's going one better and actually making a the final in 2007???

  • Comment number 15.

    I like the aggressive nature of the author towards those commenting! People get away with talking too much rubbish...

    Please don't have a go at me for some reason for saying that...

  • Comment number 16.

    Re #11

    adrianforest, I think Scotinswede's point was that GB weren't Ashes winners or Rugby World Cup winners.....England were. Whereas GB are the ones that compete in the Olympics.

    On another note, does anybody else hate the hideously americanised term "Team GB"?

  • Comment number 17.

    Good blog by the way Matt...

  • Comment number 18.

    The (football) showing in '07 was pretty good...but we did get a bit lucky in playing a Serbian team that had already qualified. On the flip side we knocked Germany out in the playoff...and almost beat the Dutch in their own stadium.

    Qualfied for '09 as well...

  • Comment number 19.

    I realise this will not be a popular point of view on here but why the hell should we be subsidising sports people at all.

    Someone leaves school and wants a trade or a vocation, they become an apprentice or go to university. Live on low/no wages and get little or no help financially, except from their parents.

    Someone leaves school and wants to become a top sportsman and we are all supposed to put our hands in our pockets and subsidise them.

    Yes they did well in China and good luck to them, but in all honesty, while being pleased for them it matters not a bit to me.

    The gold winners will make a fortune out of sponsorship and advertising and are highly unlikely to be paying anything back into the pot of their particular sport.

    What about the non medal winners. If they went and achieved a personal best that would be acceptable, but mostly they're just gutted at failing miserably. The relay team couldn't even get round without dropping the baton.

    The Olympic movement lost it's way years ago and the ever increasing number of non sports included makes it a total nonsense. Synchronised swimming and diving, what rubbish. Beach volley ball the list is laughable. They'll be having darts, snooker and ten pin next.

  • Comment number 20.

    Cheers for that, Lev, not that any of that was actually in dispute. But nice of you to take the time to point out the differences between the UK and Ireland.....for about the 18th time.

    scubaguy007, good point, and I apologise. That had slipped my mind, but I remember it well now. I think the reason the U21 game came to me first is not because I'm English, it's more that I was working that day and watched the whole game, including the pens.

    Sasuke_nffc, cheers for reading, and as for Team GB, I don't mind it so much, although I know it irritates many. "Team GB" is really just a brand name the BOA chose cos they thought it sounded snazzy. It also gets around the complexities of the situation regarding N Ireland....N Irish Olympians compete for Ireland in certain sports, boxing, for example.

    Tundra_Boy, glad to hear you're not offended. Many are. I always find that a bit rich, to be honest. Far too many people (journos too) miss the point of blogs. They are supposed to be opinionated. They're also supposed to provoke some debate. What annoys me is that some readers think that debate can only go one way. If you put the boot in you can't start crying when the journalist comes back to defend his/her point.

  • Comment number 21.


    "The gold winners will make a fortune out of sponsorship and advertising and are highly unlikely to be paying anything back into the pot of their particular sport"

    Well, no, because success breeds success - Chris Hoy has inspired and will continue to inspire thousands of youngsters who would never otherwise have taken up cycling. Eventually, of those thousands, the cream will rise to the top. That's the way success works in all sports. And so that's Hoy's contribution.

    But to be able to make it, he needed funding. The alternative is not to bother and accept being useless at certain sports. But I've a feeling that wouldn't be a problem for you - and fair enough I guess.

  • Comment number 22.

    They get funding now but these athletes clearly have to start from somewhere and would have trained to their events from a young age without the help of Taxpayers money.

    Its just a case of how well they use those funds once becoming professional and earning dosh.

    I don't mind sportspeople getting money and rewards ONCE they actually win something..its those who get advertising contracts etc despite not doing anything of note that annoy me.

  • Comment number 23.

    Jordan, what do you want to know about the Shooting at AYOF? There are summary articles on the British Shooting website which have the highlights, as does the BOA's AYOF microsite.

  • Comment number 24.

    I thought it was an option for people from Northern Ireland to compete for either the Republic of Ireland or GB in the Olympics.

    So NI boxers competing for the Republic probably suggests that the boxers are from the Catholic community in the region, while the NI Olympic finalists for GB (Houvenaghel in cycling, Campbell and Chambers in rowing) aren't.

    boblinc - you must have a very low cost definition of "fortune" if you think Olympians are automatically wealthy. And I have seen a number of ex-Olympians giving back to their sports.

  • Comment number 25.

    Matt, I completely agree. You bloggers seemingly cannot win. If you write a balanced article arguing both sides you are accused of sitting on the fence by the commenters, and if you put forward a point of view, you are accused of bias. I admire your liking for fighting your ground.

    As for those pursuers of the extremely tired "dont say we when you england", "for your information Ireland is not the UK", "Andy Murray is British until he loses", please all grow up. Most are slips of the tongue, not politically charged statements.

    As far as a British team vs a Eng/Scot/NI/Wales Olympic team - technically of course the latter is not possible as none of them is a country, they're all nations within the UK so have no right to field an Olympic team. Anyway, I hope the British team is kept, as it a wonderful way to bring the nations together, if only momentarily.

    British sport is, I think, on the up, and we should all celebrate that.

    Good blog!

  • Comment number 26.

    I believe the reason it's called "Team GB" (and thus the three letter code is GBR) is because when the Olympics kicked off in 1896, Ireland was part of "GB". Thus the country registered with the IOC as Great Britain, as it was correct at the time.

    When Ireland separated from Eng/Wal/Sco, the 'NI' choice came about.

    BOA decided to keep "Team GB" as it has the historical significance, especially as the UK is one of the few countries to have competed at each and every Olympic Games.

    Someone else may want to confirm/deny the above.

  • Comment number 27.

    boblinc, you're perfectly entitled to your opinion re: public funding for athletes, and many would agree with you, particularly in the current economic climate, but you probably won't be surprised to learn I take a different view of funding for our Olympians (and subsidising elite sport in general). I won't bang on about it too much now (it's almost home time and I could be here for some time if I get on a roll) but elite sport is vitally important because it produces role models. And role models get kids (and adults) off their backsides and into sport/fitness. Ask any champion what inspired them to take up a sport and they'll say it was watching such and such's performance when they were a kid. Sport keeps people trim, it makes them happy, breeds confidence, encourages teamwork, instils discipline, teaches important life lessons etc etc

    And winning medals also does wonders for the national mood, as last August proved.

    As for the Irish Question, as Gladstone might have put it, I think you're broadly right, Not Logged In, although the main consideration for N Irish Olympians, it seems, is what basis their sport is organised is it like Irish rugby union and done on a all-Ireland basis, or is it like football with N Irish and Irish FAs. Boxing is definitely an all-Irish thing.

    And Jordan, you're right too. It's all explained here:

  • Comment number 28.

    Interesting Blog Matt.

    Apart from track cycling and Yachting, I think we are maybe a wee bit away from a Superpower. GB is obviously the class of the two sports mentioned but beyond that??

    It's true that the Lotteries Funding has helped enormously but it's also brought other private money in in other ways.

    Yeah we had a great Olympics but we can only HOPE that the next games are as successful, we can't guarantee it, and to be honest unless Great Britain can sustain the success over successive games I don't think Olympic Superpower is a term we can coin just yet

  • Comment number 29.

    Olympians not giving abck to their sport, what the ++++.? Have a look and see what support some of them are giving at grass roots.

    Hats off to people like Alistair Brownlee, 12th in the triathlon but still happy to compete in local fell races. New years Eve fell race in Haworth was happy to compete in freezing temperatures. He came 2nd, lost his course record and at the finish it was -5!! Still hasn't won a bunny run though......

  • Comment number 30.

    If Britain is an Olympic Superpower, Australia will be lobbying the UN for a disarmament treaty; demanding bubblegum be added to Hoy, Wiggins and Pendleton's bicycle chains.

    Not to mention downsizing Britain's naval capabilities by giving Ainslie a lilo...

  • Comment number 31.

    I wouldn't normally bother with this as nobody cares, but it's so hilarious it's unbelievable.

    The whole article is desperately trying to create some sense of success and optimism, and its existence and entirety is based SOLELY on two pieces of 'evidence':

    First an 'Australian Youth Olympic Festival', an event nonexistent on the calendar of noteworthy competitions, run by Australia for the benefit of Australian athletes, with the majority of talent around the world absent and rightly so. 20 countries competing, half of them minnows. Now that's a competition to draw conclusions and make predictions for the future, ain't it Mr. Slater? Just like the Commonwealths, GB tend to accumulate dozens of medals there too you know.

    Second, an "unofficial winter pecking order". A statistics table fabricated by the BOA, manipulated to fit their targets in identical fashion to government figures showing crime going down every year. GB won ONE medal in EACH of three single-event world championships so, rejoice, British winter sports are booming! Seriously now, everybody knows that GB and winter sports together in the same sentence is a joke, an old one mind you, so obviously Mr. Slater you're having a laugh.

    As for the '07 football U-21's, in addition to facing an team that didn't care and made 11 changes as somebody mentioned above, everyone remembers that England qualified to the semis in their typical CHEATING fashion, with an opponent lying injured in the opposition box and them not only ignoring fair play rules but playing onside off him to score!!! No wonder they were abused in that match by players and fans alike. Oh and by the way this year they were so poor in the qualifier k/o's that they deserved to be eliminated by the world SUPERPOWER -(c) Matt Slater- of Wales, need I say more. Of course now, again in typical British fashion, they declare themselves as one of the pre-tournament favourites lol

    The above article should be passed on to the international press as it epitomizes in highly comical fashion the self-importance and desperation of British sport.

  • Comment number 32.

    Hello NikosBG, nice of you to drop in and thanks for the comments. A few replies from me.

    Nobody cares? Nobody cares about what? The AYOF? The Winter Olympics? London 2012? All sport other than football?

    And why "desperately create some sense of success and optimism"? Wasn't fourth in the medal table in Beijing successful enough for you? No need for any desperation here, Nikos, Britain's Olympians are doing fine. I'm simply pointing out it goes deeper and wider than what we witnessed in Beijing.

    As for your "SOLELY" on two pieces of evidence, so what? That's two more pieces of evidence than the majority of comments to BBC football blogs are based on. And, as I allude to, there is plenty more evidence out there, if you want to find it and know where to look. These two bits (which are actually large chunks of evidence with many different strands) are only last week's...again, kind of the point of the blog.

    As for the size and importance of the AYOF, fair enough, I don't think I've made any claims for it that can't be substantiated. I'm not sure you can say the same, though. It is an IOC-accredited event, and while you're right to say it is primarily an Australian event (that the top two Olympic nations US and China take seriously too), I was under the impression that Australia were pretty good at that Olympic sport lark. Probably even better on home soil, no?

    As for the BOA's annual review, please tell me how they can manipulate and fabricate (lay it on with a trowel, Nikos, why don't you) results in world championships? It was the same review that correctly identified the direction GB's Summer Olympics performance was going between 2004 and 2008, and is a measurement tool that every National Olympic Committee around the globe uses to assess performance between Games. You sneer at those three medals (ignoring, of course, the two further medals I mention in the next par or two, particularly Rudman's, who is leading the World Cup rankings and has just returned from a maternity break) but exactly how many medals do we usually win at the Winter Olympics? Let's just say we do only win three next year. You know what, not only will that be an improvement on previous Games (again, the point I'm making in the piece) but it will be the best return since 1936. I'm fairly certain we will do just that.

    You then go on to take a leaf from levdatovich's book by making a statement of the obvious in the belief it is somehow contradicting something I have written or revealing some great new truth. Britain does not have a great tradition in winter sport. No? Really?

    And then we get to area you do appear to know something about, football. Sadly, you spoil this by veering off into a subjective rant about English football and completely missing the point of the reference to the tournament in the first place (not that I did actually make much reference to the tournament, I simply mentioned the semi-final against the eventual winners and hosts). Shall I explain it again? OK, here it is, nice and simple.

    This isn't really a blog about the 2007 U-21 Euros (a tournament England went through unbeaten, except for penalties). It is a blog about the growing sense of ambition and purpose throughout British Olympic sport, as can be demonstrated by recent results in a leading youth sport festival (which suggests there is plenty of talent coming through) and even the improving performances of our Winter Olympians.

    Oh, and your rathering tiring comment about England declaring themselves as pre-tournament favourites for the 2009 Euros? When exactly did a member of the England team/set-up do this? Isn't it the bookmakers that set the odds? I believe they do this in order to balance their books. Maybe lots of English people, having seen England win seven and draw one in the qualifying stages and then beat a fine Welsh team that finished above France in their group to reach the play-offs, think we have a reasonable chance this time.

    Let's hope so, because England's best performances on the senior stage tend to come about five or six years after good results at this level, which is, wait for it, again the point of this blog.

    Thanks for reading, though.

  • Comment number 33.

    I think you missed the point about Nikos post. He was referring more to desperately optimistic tone in which you write about youth sport, which in itself is not bad, its more the way it comes across like a teenager seeking approval.

    The fact that the blog title is the question "are we a super power?" smacks of this desperate need for approval that seems to permeate sports writing in Britain.

  • Comment number 34.

    I don't think I missed Nikos's point at all. Or your first one, Crickey. You hammer home the "desperate" nail pretty loudly too. But can I just ask, who is seeking approval? Me? Or British Olympic sport? As for the title, I think I answer the question pretty clearly. No, we're not an Olympic superpower. But we're pretty good and we're getting better.

    No matter, all views are welcome here. So keep 'em coming. I, however, must move on to my teenage tantrum.

  • Comment number 35.

    Matt, this isn't a personal attack on your but an attack on the jingoistic tone in English newspapers, especially when writing about the performance of their sporting teams. I hope you can see the difference.

  • Comment number 36.

    We showed, in one Olympiad, what we could do with proper funding.

    That was: be world leaders in a few niche sports (cycling, rowing); do well in a few other sports (swimming, track and field, canoeing) and fairly averagely in most of the others.

    We're now likely to be even more polarised in 2012 due to budget cuts.

    We've broken our legacy promises based on the funding decisions now being taken.

    Deliberately in my book.

    This country doesn't want all round success.

    It threatens the power of the 'elites'.

    Construction is more important than participation. The media centre's extravagance more important than funding three minority sports properly in the UK.

    Those are choices.

    But they aren't choices I agree with.

    I'd take a heavy punt on gaining sponsorship in late 2010 or 2011 to offset funding the minority sports deficit of £50m.

    It is, after all, probably less than the cost of funding the sick note culture of less than half of England.

    Given the Govt's requirement to 'get tough on the layabouts', wouldn't funding some hard working young sportsfolks set an example?

  • Comment number 37.

    Regarding the recent funding announcement. The BBC Sport website states the % cut for some of the sports with 'basic level funding e.g Handball 51.6% cut. In reality it is greater than this as the sports that did not go to beijing (Handball, Volleyball etc.) did not funding for the full Olympic Cycle leading up to Beijing. They only had funding for 2 1/2 years. so Handalls 2.99million leading up to Beijing was for 2 1/2 years with the 1.448 being for the full olympic cycle to London 2012.
    This actually makes the severity of the recent decisions even worse with the potential impact being greater.
    Whilst UK Sports task on this issue has not been an easy one there are some strange decisions across the Olympic and Paralympic disciplines.

  • Comment number 38.

    I hope our Olympic athetes can continue to improve and win medals but remember they cannot just rely on Taxpayer money at this time of crisis for everyone generally so sadly some less popular sports will miss out although hopefully there will be long term legency (spelling) for our kids of the future.

    Trouble is the government seems to be having a lot of bother just paying for the London 2012 facilities!

  • Comment number 39.

    Interesting article Matt, but I have some worries.
    While the elite end and the funding that goes with it proves that we can compete with the very best, generally the state of most sports is pretty parlous once you get past the top few.
    Diving, which I've been involved in for over 30 years has the new 'wunderkinder' in Tom Daley, and he is doing great things for the sport. But. If you wanted to do it, where would you go? Tom lives in Plymouth, 5 minutes from one of only 6 full spec diving facilities in the UK. In London there are only 10 pools with diving boards, and not all are open for public use. Clubs are stripped of access time and can't grow so the interest generated by Beijing (and it was a lot) couldn't be met. Hundreds were interested but he clubs can't take them. Public access is not even on the governing bidies radar , so kids cant us e them for fun, and you can't have a new pool with diving boards unless 'you have an establishing coaching infrastructure'.

    Development for the future??? We are dead lucky that Tom Daley came along, in the same was that we have had top flight divers in the past like Brian Phelps, Liz Ferris (both Olympic Medalists) or Chris Snode. Where I now live there is one pool with boards within an hour travelling time, our nearest 10meter is a minimum of 1 1/2 hours away.

    We might be lucky in 2012, god knows the athletes are working hard enough BUT the legacy we should have is being wasted by a lack of knowledge and application and too much froth and spin.

  • Comment number 40.

    Just as a point to boblinc about non sports
    Diving was one of the original Olympic sports and has been there since 1904, divers have to have the most complete fitness and flexibility level of any sport (one of the reasons Jane smith went from diving to winning Gladiators!)

    If you think it's a non sport, may I suggest you just try it?


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