Team GB’s athletes have made “sporting history” at Rio 2016, but their bosses believe Tokyo 2020 could be even better.
The team arrived in Brazil with the target of winning 48 medals to make Rio 2016 Britain’s best ever ‘away’ Games, but will end up with 67 medals – two more than London’s remarkable haul – and second in the medal table ahead of China.
“We’re making sporting history – 67 medals, nearly 130 medallists, across 19 sports,” said UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl.
“Even the sporting superpowers haven’t done that in the past, but we are one of those now.”
British Olympic Association chief executive Bill Sweeney agreed with Nicholl and praised the teamwork and “20 years of investment” that have combined to produce “this outstanding performance”.
“Since National Lottery funding started in 1997, we have had five consecutive (summer) Olympic Games of medal growth – no other country has come close to that,” said Sweeney.
It is an oft-repeated statistic that Team GB finished 36th in the medal table, with just one gold, at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
A year later, UK Sport was created for the purpose of allocating National Lottery and public funding to elite Olympic and Paralympic sport. Super-heavyweight Joe Joyce’s silver last night was the 700th won by Great Britain in Olympics and Paralympics since lottery funding started and Nicholl believes there is no reason to think Rio is as good as it will get.
She explained that 40 per cent of the £275m UK Sport gave to sports in the Olympic summer programme over the last four years is actually earmarked for Tokyo on a rolling eight-year investment plan, and the national governing bodies of the various sports have already submitted their strategic plans for 2020.
“We have asked them all what is the medal potential for your sport, who are the athletes and what will it cost to win,” added Nicholl.
“So we can see from the medal ranges that are in draft at the moment that there is the potential to build on the success.
“The sports will need to reflect on these Games – see which athletes retire and so on – but we are confident we can build on this.”
One sport both Nicholl and Sweeney would love to add in Tokyo is football, with talks already under way with the Home Nations about bringing them on board under the Team GB banner. “We could win more medals in Tokyo,” said Nicholl. “GB women’s football, for example. I have no doubt that they would have won a medal here.”