Basketball, synchronised swimming, taekwondo, boxing, archery and hockey are the big winners in UK Sport’s Olympic 2012 funding programme. All six have received sizeable increases in their budgets ahead of London, with basketball getting a huge 136% increase, up from £3.7m to £8.7m. Rowing is now Britain’s best funded Olympic sport, getting £27.5m of the £304m pot available. The big losers include shooting, table tennis, handball and fencing.
UK Sport insists the level of funding builds on the £265m that was provided ahead of the Beijing Games and enables Britain to target a top-four finish in the medals table in London. But its £550m budget is £50m below the £600m that had been pledged and has meant that some sports, like handball, have lost out. “We are gutted,” Paul Goodwin, general manager of British Handball, “I don’t know how we are going to afford our coaches.”
The shortfall would have been greater had the government not found an additional £29m of funding on Tuesday. Culture secretary Andy Burnham insisted that the extra cash meant that Britain’s Olympians had “certainty” as they prepared for the London Games.
“It’s a good deal but a realistic one given the changed economic circumstances we are now in. People can build for London. This is a package that works for everybody.”
UK Sport, which handles budgets for Britain’s Olympians and Paralympians, had been allocated £600m over six years for elite sports, with £300m coming from the government, £200m from the Lottery and £100m from the private sector. But with a global financial crisis in full swing, no money was forthcoming from businesses, leaving UK Sport with the prospect of reducing the number of athletes, and perhaps sports, it funded ahead of the London Games.
Burnham remains confident of being able to tease money out of the private sector to help athletes prepare for London. “Sport is such a great thing to invest in, even in difficult economic times,” he said.
“It’s not frivolous spending in any way, shape or form. This is money that brings real benefit in terms of greater activity in the population and real joy, real happiness when we see our national team do well.
“It is also right now that we really up our efforts to bring in private sector funding to support our preparations for London.”
Shadow Olympics minister Hugh Robertson has insisted the government should have honoured the original commitment. “This still falls £50m short of what the Government unconditionally promised sport that it would get two years ago.”