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Winter sports funding is 'unacceptable' - Olympic chief

Alcott is one of the athletes who has funded her own programme
Chemmy Alcott is one of the athletes who has funded her own programme

Winter sports receive an "unacceptable" level of funding, the British Olympic Association (BOA) has said, pledging a "new dawn" for British winter athletes.

BOA chairman Colin Moynihan pointed out UK Sport gives winter sports 1.5% of the funding afforded to summer sports.

Speaking ahead of the 2010 Winter Olympics, he added: "We need to ask athletes what they need and respond."

However, sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe said: "We're investing record amounts in our Winter Olympians."

He continued: "It is double the amount than for Salt Lake City in 2002.

"We have complete confidence in UK Sport's 'no compromise approach' - funding athletes who are world class and have a genuine chance of winning medals.

"This worked superbly in Beijing and has ensured a strong British team is out in Vancouver.

"If the team come back with the targeted three medals it will be Britain's best Winter Olympics performance for decades and an important step forward for winter sports in this country."

The governing body for GB's skiers and snowboarders went bust a week before the start of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The BOA stepped in temporarily after athletes had been left to fund themselves ahead of the Games, which begin on Friday.

Team GB's chef de mission in Vancouver, Andy Hunt, said winter sports remain a high priority despite claims London 2012 will dominate funding over the next two years.

"The future situation of skiing and snowboarding in the UK is looking pretty difficult."

Graham Bell
Former GB Olympic skier

"I'll bang the drum for winter sports like I do for summer sports," Hunt told BBC Sport.

"We're a non-alpine nation and it's truly remarkable that we've got 52 athletes here [in Vancouver] anyway.

"I really want to ensure that we have sustainable funding going forward that we can develop great pathways to build on a wealth of young people in our winter sports. There's so much opportunity and potential.

"When you look around other nations like the Netherlands - they're not an alpine nation but they compete at the highest level. We need to build on that experience and lift our winter sports to the next level."

The British Ski and Snowboard Federation, trading as Snowsport GB, was responsible for administering the lottery funds it received from UK Sport, but collapsed because of overspending.

The BOA agreed to set up a new body - British Ski and Snowboarding (BSS) - to look after the 14 ski and snowboard athletes and their coaches at the Vancouver Games. It will review the whole structure in its aftermath, though it is not obliged to continue with the organisation going forward.

Snowboarding has reinstated the British Snowboard Association (BSA) to administer the sport in the UK, though the organisation has yet to be accepted by the International Ski Federation as the official national governing body.

"It really is a new dawn for winter sports," added Moynihan. "For a governing body to go bust could not be worse.

"It has not been an example of strong management or strong governance. There has been a lack of focus on the requirements of athletes - a number of senior managers never even met the athletes - and there are many lessons to be learnt.

"We've got to start afresh and work with the summer governing bodies to make sure winter sports athletes and governing bodies are well represented through to Sochi 2014."

Former British Olympic ski racer Graham Bell said he remains worried that skiing's outlook is unclear.

"The future situation of skiing and snowboarding in the UK is looking pretty difficult," said Bell.

"There are organisations like the British Association of Ski Instructors (Basi), like the Ski Club of Great Britain, who would benefit from having a strong British team and we need to get those organisations together to decide what the future is for competitive skiing in the UK.

"It depends on what results we get out of these Olympics and what we can go back to UK Sport with."

606: DEBATE

Funding levels are based on past performance and future potential as part of UK Sport's "no compromise" investment approach.

Alpine skiing received £372,000 and snowboarding £248,000 out of the total winter sports fund of £5,822,000 for the Vancouver Games. Skeleton received the most cash - £2,110,000 - after slider Shelley Rudman won Team GB's only medal in Turin four years ago.

The pot for the four-year cycle for summer sports ahead of London 2012 is £261,304,353 and Bell is concerned that winter sports are being squeezed out.

"Part of the reason why we are in the problem we are right now is because of the massive underfunding in winter sports in the UK," said Bell.

"London 2012 has distracted both sponsors and funding agencies from the Winter Olympics and that's ultimately the crux of the problem."

Hunt says he is "personally determined" to ensure that winter sports going forward to the next Games in Sochi in 2014 will not miss out , while UK Sport insists winter sports funding has increased since Turin.

"Our investment is based entirely on performance need," said a spokesman for UK Sport.

"The reality is that the number of medal opportunities and athlete places needed in summer Olympic and Paralympic sport, plus the greater amount of team sports, means that our investment is weighted much more towards these Summer sports.

"London has, of course, seen a dramatic increase in the funding of summer Olympic and Paralympic sports, in part due to the provision of additional ring-fenced funding to support the performance imperative associated with being host nation.

"This however has not come at the expense of winter sports where investment has actually increased for the Vancouver cycle from the previous funding cycle for Turin.

"Any longer term issues around the future of the sport and our potential to invest for Sochi will be addressed as part of the post-Vancouver review process."

UK Sport is targeting three medals from the Vancouver Games, with Rudman, bobsleigh duo Nicola Minichiello and Gillian Cooke and the men's curling team touted as possible medallists.



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see also
GB Olympic bosses to help skiers
05 Feb 10 |  Alpine skiing
Rudman to lead GB skeleton squad
29 Jan 10 |  Skeleton
Former sprinter in Winters squad
28 Jan 10 |  Vancouver 2010
Baxter omitted from Winters squad
26 Jan 10 |  Vancouver 2010
Brits target three Winter medals
25 Jan 10 |  Vancouver 2010
Gillings records season's best
10 Jan 10 |  Snowboarding
British skiing hit by cash crisis
13 Aug 09 |  Winter Sports


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