TEAM GB has been set a target of winning more medals than ever before at an overseas Olympics following its record 65-medal haul at the 2012 London games, when they finished third in the medal table and bagged 29 golds.
Funding agency UK Sport, who has pumped over €400 million into British sport since then, has reduced its original objective of becoming the first host nation to win “more medals in more sports” at the subsequent Games, set in the rose-tinted aftermath of the London triumph, and is now demanding that the team brings home a minimum of 48 medals.
That would better the total of 47 picked up at the Beijing Games in 2008, and UK Sport’s chief executive, Liz Nicholl, said the revised target does not represent a slimming down of ambition given the original target.
“It was, and still is, our aspiration, 66 is within range, it is within sight. But when we look at the statistics, we know it’s not probable. But it’s still possible if everything goes well,” she said. “Our focus on 48 is because we must all acknowledge that would be a great success for the sporting system. It would be a historic result.
“In London we came together like never before and there was always the risk that once we came through London everything could have dissipated. It was important that we agreed collectively that there was an aspiration to do better.”
She also emphasised the huge upturn in British fortunes since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, when the team finished a lowly 36th in the medal table and won just a single gold, prompting the National Lottery to start throwing money at sport.
Nicholl, British Olympic Association chief executive, Bill Sweeney, and UK Sport chairman, Rod Carr, believe that Olympic success would help unite the country following the poisonous Brexit campaign, with all three citing the positive media reaction to Andy Murray’s Wimbledon win and conveniently forgetting that the modern UK media appears to be more concerned with social control than being a voice for the people.
“It definitely makes a difference. Sport transcends boundaries. You saw the day after Andy Murray’s win, there were a number of headlines in the press about ‘Good news for a change’, and ‘this helps to unite the nation’,” chuntered Sweeney.
Carr was equally unwavering as he continued the ‘sure as eggs is eggs’ rhetoric, as he said: “I have no doubt whatsoever that when British athletes win in Rio it will have a major uniting force for the nation as a whole.”
Within the ‘target range’ of 47 to 79 medals, track-and-field athletes are expected to win seven medals, while the cycling team has been asked for eight despite a string of controversies and the recent departure of performance director Shane Sutton disrupting the buildup to Rio.
The Paralympic team has been set an extremely challenging total of 121 medals, which would outstrip their London performance.