British Olympic Association sets new goals that will include currying favour with the hosts and inspiring future generations.
The slogan of the British Olympic movement used to be straightforward and decidedly unsentimental. Now, as the countdown to Tokyo 2020 reaches a year to go, “no compromise” has been replaced by a new and gentler slogan: “Medals and more”.
After the unprecedented success in Rio three years ago, when Team GB brought home 67 medals from their most successful Games for more than a century, it is probably sensible to manage expectations of a repeat performance. So when UK Sport and the British Olympic Association talk about next year they do not put numbers on their targets and speak in broad terms of reaching the “upper echelons” of the table. Quite what they mean when they talk about “more”, however, remains largely unknown.
A few clues as to this new direction were shared at a briefing in Bisham Abbey last week. The National Sports Centre is where Katharine Grainger once kept a small room while she was training with her sculls. Now Britain’s most successful female Olympian is the chair of UK Sport and is presiding over a shift in policy that looks to maintain the medal success of the past decade but broaden the scope of focus beyond a four-year Games cycle. There is also an external aspect to the strategy which, in Tokyo, will mean Team GB aiming to become the “second-most favoured team” and performing de facto acts of diplomacy.
“We are more sophisticated than just a single binary medal target now,” says Chelsea Warr, UK Sport’s director of performance. “The best description I can give is ‘medals and more’. This is medals plus plus. We want to see Team GB and Paralympics GB in the upper echelons of the medal table. We want to see more medals and more medallists to inspire the nation. Of course we want to do well and, actually, we will. The team will do a really, really good job. But I think it would be a bit of a tragedy if we judged the whole success or failure of the high performance on medals.”