Goal posts not gold medals: has the UK got sport upside down?

  • Posted on Feb 27, 2017

A report suggesting that the vast majority of the British public was not inspired by Team GB’s medal success at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games has been slammed by the chair of UK Sport.

Pro Bono Economics’ ”Give us goal posts, not gold medals” report revealed that “only 7 per cent of Brits” were inspired to take up sport after the Olympic Games, and that money should be concentrated into creating better access to sporting facilities.

According to the survey, only 4 per cent of the population backed UK Sport’s ‘no compromise’ strategy, which sees resources pumped into sports that are likely to medal at major championships.

In contrast, 18 per cent said they would like to see more affordable fees for public sports centres, 14 per cent wanted the reinstatement of school and public playing field “lost in a mass sell-off during the 1980s”, and a further 14 per cent wanted more support for local grassroots sport initiatives.

The report was backed by Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and journalist Simon Kuper.

However, UK Sport chair Rod Carr said the research was “highly questionable”, and that to “undermine athletes’ value to society” was “hugely disappointing”.

“We believe the impact of investing in our athletes’ success has far reaching benefits for the nation,” he added.

“Our own extensive research across a number of years demonstrates clearly that Olympic and Paralympic success instils a sense of national pride, ambition and achievement, that improved facilities for elite athletes benefit local communities and that hosting major sporting events inspires participation and boosts the economy.”

Carr also pointed out that the £345m (US$428.6, €405.1) UK Sport will distribute over the 2017-2021 Tokyo Olympic cycle is dwarfed by the around-£1bn fund grassroots sport quango Sport England will grant over the 2015-2020 period.

During the Rio Games, Team GB won 67 medals while ParalympicsGB achieved an impressive haul of 147.

But Grey-Thompson said: “We know there is a disconnect between elite sport and participation.

“Unless we look more creatively about how we engage everyone in physical activity, we may win medals but we will be bottom of the league table on health and wellbeing.”

Kuper added: “These findings support my theory that Britain really has got sport upside down. Why spend billions on an Olympics when few kids in the country have the facilities to play judo, fencing or equestrianism anywhere near their homes.”

Source: Leisure Opportunities