Funding for the Rio Olympics in 2016 was met with disappointment from large sections of the sporting community this week, as various sports had their funding slashed. While the governing body, UK Sport, has pledged record levels of finance (£347m), sports including basketball, handball, wrestling, table tennis and indoor volleyball will receive no additional funding within the next four years.
The move comes as UK Sport are aiming for more medals in Rio than during the London Olympics, with an 11% increase in funding compared to 2012. No country has ever increased their medal total following their home Olympics. In his defence of the cuts, Minister for Sport Hugh Robertson admitted that the sports which have had their funding cut were only supported in 2012 as a way of selling more tickets. Robertson went on to say that teams had been fielded in events which Team GB had no hope of winning; and that it would be wrong for the host nation to not compete in as many sports as possible.
UK Sport’s stance on the matter appears to be that the funding given to these sports has been sufficient, and will have to be better used in the future. At a time when finances are hard on the nation, UK Sport, which operates solely on public funding, has taken the decision to only fund genuine medal hopes for 2016.
Funding has instead been diverted towards the more successful sports such as rowing and cycling, which saw their budget increased by £4m to just over £30m. Popular sports at the 2012 games such as boxing has also seen its funding increase by a similar margin.
The individual sports receiving no funding until 2016 have naturally reacted with disappointment at the decision, showing concern for the legacy of the 2012 games. The head of British Basketball, Roger Moreland, labelled the move “devastating”, especially in light of the potential shown in the sport prior to London 2012. Both Moreland and the head of British Volleyball, Lisa Wainwright argued that the cutbacks in funding are not in the spirit of the legacy following the London Games.
During the London Olympics, Team GB received enormous international praise due to their final position of third in the medal table, despite their relatively modest budget. However, while acknowledging that the move would be unpopular with the affected sports, the chair of UK Sport, Baroness Sue Campbell, replied “it is not about being popular, it is about making tough decisions.”