Funding and training vital as Britain looks to nurture young talent for 2012

From 2006, the Young Academic archive brings you a fascinating sports feature regarding the London Olympic Games…

Preparations for London 2012 are now well and truly underway but will Britain have the athletes to compete at the highest level when the games arrive here in 2012?

WITH ICONS like Lord Sebastian Coe, Daley Thompson and Sir Steve Redgrave spearheading Britain’s campaign for top new athletes nationwide, it would be hard to find better role models for up and coming sportspeople to aspire to. The former Olympic champions will find themselves busy during the next five years as they attempt, with the help of a whole host of other sporting legends, to unearth the individuals who can achieve gold for Britain.

As Young Academic has found out, training standards and lack of funding could get in the way of Great Britain having a historic home tournament.

Daley Thompson, two time champion having won Gold in the Moscow and Los Angeles games, has been visiting athletics clubs nationwide for the last twelve months and is far from optimistic at present, “Everybody realises we’re struggling at the moment and the 2012 Olympics aren’t far away”

“I think I can give them more self belief and make them more professional. Most just don’t set their sights high enough,” the decathlete stated earlier this year.

Thompson will continue to scour the country for new talent and attempt to instil the same disciplines into today’s youngsters that won him his honours in the early eighties.

The lack of emerging talent may not be due simply to a lack of drive; many believe the current government could be doing more to aid their development.

Sports groups have urged Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to inject much needed cash into athletics to give them the best chance in the 2012 games. This injection would serve also to inspire the next generation of athletes that could well find themselves competing in London.

Many of the potential stars will currently be at high schools and colleges around England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and now is the time to start nurturing them for the first English Olympic Games since 1948.

Ben Brown, who’s famous image of himself vaulting over the gherkin on the River Thames, has had to quit his training due to lack of funding and had now taken to full-time employment in a bank. He is one of hundreds of young sportspeople who have had to abort the ‘World-Class Potential’ programme due to limited resources and money.

“I can’t really blame anybody specifically for the fact I have had to give up, but I believe the government has a lot to answer for” said Brown of his situation.

“There was plenty of money to create a London Arena but not a penny is being spent on the young British Athletes who might bring home a Gold medal, if they had funded me just £2,000 a year, which is quite minimal, I could have carried on,” he continued.

With UK Sport declaring that a further £49.4 million is needed if Great Britain is to achieve its goal of finishing fourth in the 2012 medals table – the ball certainly appears to be in the court of Gordon Brown and the next two years of the labour administration.

The other major sports group, the British Olympic Association (BOA) has stated that the loss of athletes through a lack of funding is an example of the devastating effect that confusions and delays have had on the ‘sharp end’ of sport – this sentiment seems to be echoed throughout the world of athletics.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has defended itself by stating officially that the funding of sport has tripled under the current government, “UK Sport will invest £98 million between now and the end of the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008”

“Gymnastics will have received £11.1 million between 1997 and 2009 to support their best athletes. In addition, £40 million has been invested since 1994 in the development of sport,”

“We are in discussions with UK Sport and the Treasury about funding up to 2012,”

So, the future looks uncertain for the nation’s athletes in the run up to Beijing and, indeed London – only time will tell.

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