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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 August, 2004, 22:09 GMT 23:09 UK
Mission accomplished for Team GB?
By Tom Fordyce

How good was Team GB in Athens?

The simple answer is that it was the best British performance in the modern era.

That last burst of golden glory from Kelly Holmes and the 4x100m relay boys took Britain to a total of 30 medals in Athens, two more than the supposed high mark of Sydney and double the number won in Atlanta eight years ago.

GB won 37 in 1984, but that was a boycott-hit Games missing the Eastern Bloc countries. Take Los Angeles out of the picture, and this was Britain's best haul since 1924.

British Olympic Association boss Simon Clegg had set a target for Athens of six to nine golds with a total in excess of 25.

The nine golds, nine silver and 12 bronze the 271-strong British team will be bringing back makes that, in Clegg's words, "mission accomplished".

Within that broad picture however, lies the key details of which sports were responsible for this success, and which failed to deliver.

When the dust has settled on these Olympics, the hard talk at the BOA and UK Sport will begin - because winning medals will not be any easier in Beijing in four years' time.

Four-year funding: 14.47m
Athens medals: 2 bronze
Cost per medal: 7.23m

China, home to 1.3 billion people, has 17,000 athletes in elite training. Japan and South Korea have already overtaken Britain in the medals tally.

Which is why sports like athletics and swimming, two of Team GB's underperformers, will be under pressure straight away.

Swimming took a team of 26 to Athens and reached 14 finals, five more than Sydney.

Performance director Bill Sweetenham predicted two medals, and that's exactly what the team got.

Chris Hoy
Four-year funding: 15.27m
Athens medals: 2 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze
Cost per medal: 3.82m

But the cost in lottery funding per medal - 7.23m - will be considered deeply disappointing by those with their hands on the purse strings.

Athletics, too, managed just four medals from 58 competitors. And two of those came from one woman.

Clegg fired the first warning shots before the closing ceremony in Athens had even begun.

"There were far too many athletes not getting through the first rounds and being eliminated in early heats," he said.

"Outside (Holmes and the relay) and Kelly Sotherton's bronze, it's been a mixed performance by the track and field team.

"That's something I'm going to have to sit down with UK Athletics and do a thorough analysis of."

As in Sydney, the big-hitting sports for Britain were sailing, rowing and cycling.

Between them they accounted for 13 of GB's 30 medals, very similar to the 12 of 28 four years ago.

All three have been praised by UK Sport's interim chair, Sue Campbell, as the perfect models of how sports should be run.

Four-year funding: 10.5m
Athens medals: none
Cost per medal: n/a

Campbell wants each sport to have lean, accountable performance programmes that consistently produce world-class talent.

Cycling, after the work done by Peter Keen before Sydney and with its impressive medal tally from the last two Olympics, fits the bill perfectly.

British hockey does not. Despite an outlay of 10.5m over the last four years, the GB men's team finished ninth in Athens. The women's team did not make it there at all.

Links to more Olympics 2004 stories



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