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Can money buy Olympic success?

Friday, August 19, 2016 - 02:03

With 56 medals already in Rio, Team GB's Olympic athletes have been enjoying their most successful ever Games on foreign soil. But how much of that is down to hard work and how much is down to hard cash? Ivor Bennett reports.

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What does it take to become an Olympic champion? Hard work obviously, but in Team GB's case, there's also hard cash. SOUNDBITE (English) LIZ NICHOLL, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, UK SPORT, SAYING: "About two thirds of our strategic investment comes from the National Lottery. And thanks to the National Lottery players in the UK who are buying tickets every week, they've contributed to this medal success we've seen here in Rio." Lottery funding began after the dismal showing in Atlanta. Only one gold out of 15 medals put them 36th, after 20 million pounds of investment. 235 million was spent on the Beijing Games, and it paid off. 47 medals took them up to 4th. And now in Rio, they're 2nd after 274 million pounds of investment. So does money buy success? SOUNDBITE (English) LIZ NICHOLL, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, UK SPORT, SAYING: "It's a people business, so if you put together the talented athlete, the technical expertise the resources enable to sport to employ, and the resource, then you've got those three ingredients which are supporting success here." Medal prospects are identified up to 8 years in advance. Take Gaius Thompson for example, who's being funded for Tokyo 2020. SOUNDBITE (English) GAIUS THOMPSON, GYMNAST, SAYING: "We can just focus on our sport. We can focus on the thing we love most and we don't ahve to worry about doing a job or anything like that." Gymnastics is one of the success stories. Four medals in London meant more money and more medals - six in Rio. But the model's also ruthless. Basketball had its funding cut after failing to medal in 2012. SOUNDBITE (English) LIZ NICHOLL, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, UK SPORT, SAYING: "It's just unaffordable. If we put say 30 million pounds into basketball over the next three cycles, then there would be a significant number of sports and athletes that are capable, and have delivered medals here, that wouldn't be able to be supported." As it stands, each medal in Rio has cost Britain just under 5 million pounds. But if success really does breed success, then it could be money well spent.

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Can money buy Olympic success?

Friday, August 19, 2016 - 02:03