Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220 - 239)



  Chairman: Can I apologise for keeping you waiting; nevertheless, welcome Lord Moynihan, Chairman of the British Olympic Association and Simon Clegg, Chief Executive, and Phil Lane of the British Paralympic Association. Philip Davies is going to start.

  Q220  Philip Davies: Could you tell us how much input the BOA and the BPA had in setting medal targets for Beijing and London?

  Mr Clegg: The British Olympic Association have set absolutely no medal targets for Beijing at this stage, but we were primarily responsible for driving the medal target for Team GB at London 2012, after we called a meeting of all of the National Governing Bodies and all the agencies involved in elite sport six days after we returned from Singapore after London won the right to host the Games, to address specifically the challenges that we would face in London 2012. The agreement that we reached was that it was right and proper that as a country we should aspire to be the best that we could be in the context of hosting the Games in 2012, and with this in mind the target was set for fourth place, which will require Great Britain to deliver, at this moment in time, 20 gold medals, but our expectation is that by 2012, to secure fourth place in the medal table we will have to win 18 gold medals.

  Mr Lane: I can say for the Paralympics actually that we were not. There was a fairly simple calculation done somewhere that if you were second last time with a bit more investment you would be first next time. That obviously discounted the fact that China was competing. We have been fairly consistent in our position that we feel we aspire to remain a top five nation with an overall higher aspiration of finishing in the top three, where we have consistently been over the years. We think that is realistic for us as a nation, a small nation in Paralympic terms, and we believe that with the right levels of investment, which are now beginning to appear, we should now be able to continue in that position.

  Q221  Philip Davies: A couple of weeks ago we had representatives from athletics, swimming and cycling, who were emphasising to us how hard fought these medals would be. Do you still think that fourth place is a realistic target for the UK at those Games?

  Mr Clegg: Absolutely. One of the things that we did shortly after coming back from Singapore was to initiate a publication, which I believe all Members of the Committee receive on an annual basis, called Countdown to 2012. That gave us an ability to model, to bring together the individual performances of each of the sports and the disciplines that will be part of the 2012 sports programme, and bring these together in a relative Olympic medal table. This allows us on an annual basis to monitor the progress which British sport is making. You will have seen from the last two annual reports that you have received that had the Games been staged in 2005 or 2006, and based upon the individual results from the governing body World Championship's results, Great Britain would have effectively finished in seventh place in the medal table in both 2005 and 2006. We are confident still that our aspirational target of fourth place in 2012 is still achievable and entirely appropriate.

  Lord Moynihan: It might be helpful if I add to that that as a result of that initial meeting, post-Singapore, the BOA sat down with UK Sport and worked to deliver a budget which we felt was necessary to support the delivery of that target in 2012 that you have heard Simon elaborate on. That then led to discussions with DCMS; DCMS in turn then presented their case to the Treasury and I think for the first time in my lifetime in sports politics the Treasury supported that total budget request in full. So the financing was therefore put in place to assist the governing bodies in delivering the services to their athletes that would be necessary to see us move towards fourth place by 2012.

  Q222  Philip Davies: Competition seems to be getting fiercer in sport, and to give you an example over the weekend I was at a swimming gala in my constituency where a 13-year-old girl competing had been selected for the squad of Olympic people for 2012 because she was showing such potential. But she has very little access to swimming pool time; there are no 50 metre swimming pools in Bradford and so she has very little opportunity to use those facilities. Given that basic lack of facilities that people need do you not see that as being quite a big constraint on such an ambitious target?

  Mr Clegg: We have to look at it in its totality. There are 35 sports at the moment in the Olympic Movement, reducing to 33 sports after 2008—28 of those sports reducing to 26 are summer sports—and we do need to look at it across the whole. What Lord Coe said earlier on is absolutely right, that not only in London but across the country we do not have the quality and the range of facilities that many other leading sporting nations do, but it is important that we constantly look to address that issue and to put in place the best possible support mechanisms for these athletes. That is something that we are working on with the other agencies to ensure that every talented athlete in this country who has the potential to compete and represent our country in 2012 is given every opportunity of reaching their full potential. There are some constraints, of course there are, and we need to work around those to ensure that we give everyone the best chance of success.

  Q223  Philip Davies: Finally, our target for Beijing is that we will finish eighth in the medal table. If we either do worse or better in Beijing than that will that be an indicator of how well or badly we may do in 2012 or are each Olympic Games completely different from each other?

  Mr Clegg: Can I be very clear we have not set a target and under the Olympic Charter it is our exclusive responsibility to select, prepare, lead and manage the British Team (Team GB) at the Olympic Games. We will set the target based on the ongoing discussions that we will be having with our governing bodies, as we have done at previous Games, and determine where and if it is appropriate to set a target for Beijing. So no target has been set at this moment in time.

  Mr Lane: If I may, can I just say that in Paralympic terms it is a much less clear picture across the piece and in fact achieving the targets that have been in the public domain are much more demanding because it is not a simple landscape. There may be no 50 metre pools in Bradford but I suspect there are very few provisions for young disabled athletes to participate in Bradford either, and that is the picture across the country. Of course, we have a much more complex picture than that in that our sports are based on various classifications and therefore if we do not have athletes within those classifications to compete we cannot compete for the medals. So, irrespective of how many medals are available we still may not be able to compete for all of them in the way that our Olympic team possibly can. There is a fairly new dimension in terms of Paralympics—the competition is growing exponentially and by Beijing over 160 nations will be participating compared to about 120 in Sydney, and we expect more than that in London in 2012. So actually the level of competition is growing exponentially and if you look at the Athens' table countries like the Ukraine were running in fifth and sixth place. That is fairly unheard of, I suspect, if you look across some of the more Olympic sports. So it is a more challenging target to maintain for Paralympic sport in particular.

  Q224  Philip Davies: You have set a target for the 2012 Olympics; it seems a bit surprising that you have not yet set a target for next year's Olympics. When will you be getting around to addressing that target and will you address the issue of whether you hit or miss that target in Beijing will have an impact on the chances of us hitting our target for 2012.

  Mr Clegg: We have to accept that a number of our sports are already delivering to capacity. With a very regular occurrence we are delivering consistent medal success at the Olympic Games in sports like rowing, cycling and sailing—those types of sports. In the context of trying to achieve our aspirational goal of fourth place in the medal table in 2012, we are going to have to find other sports who are traditionally outside the medal zone to contribute towards our medal tally, and that is why sports like judo, triathlon, and taekwondo are so important. So actually what we need to be doing is measuring their improvement on the journey to 2012 to see if we are likely to hit that aspirational target that we have set. So it is not all about the number of gold medals that we achieve in Beijing next year, it is about looking at the whole team over all 302 Olympic medal opportunities that there will be in Beijing to see what progress we are making collectively towards that goal.

  Lord Moynihan: I think that is right. If I can add to that, Beijing is seen very much as a stepping stone towards London 2012; that is one of the advantages of being a host nation. We need to see improvements in the areas that Simon has outlined. The question is wholly valid. There is no exact science that automatically delivers us any given place in the medal table. Perhaps the best example of that is five of the gold medals Team GB won at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games; Chris Hoy's one kilometre time trial, Kelly Holmes' 800 and 1500 metre gold medals, the coxless four's gold medal and the men's four x100m relay gold medal. If you took those five gold medals and you substitute all five for the second place, for silver medals, the collective time between all five being gold medals from five silvers, it was 0.545 of one second in over 13 minutes of finals. That is like running from Fleet Street to here if you are fit and healthy, and the distance being the length of this table between five gold and five silver medals, and that would have moved us from tenth place in the medal table to seventeenth. So what that tells the British Olympic Association, and indeed everybody who is there to support the athletes, is that no stone must be left unturned in delivering the best possible services and support to all our Olympic athletes—everybody in that team—to ensure that we not only recognise the 0.545 rule that is imprinted on our minds but that we give every possible world leading support mechanism to those athletes and those coaches and to those governing bodies. As Lord Coe mentioned earlier, it is for the governing bodies to be empowered to deliver that success because it is athletes that win the gold medals and not the BOA officials, UK Sport employees or, dare I say it, even Members of this eminent Committee. Therefore, we have to make sure that every day we focus on delivering absolutely world leading support services to each and every athlete.

  Mr Clegg: Finally on that point, if I may, just to re-emphasise the point I was making about some sports already competing to capacity, if British Cycling was a nation and delivered the same results at the 2004 Olympic Games as they did at this year's World Championships they would have been ranked seventeenth in the overall medal table in Athens.

  Chairman: Alan Keen.

  Q225  Alan Keen: I agree with everything you said about the up and coming sports like taekwondo and the others you mentioned. What is it that you have been doing about these sports that have no base whatsoever in this country and yet are Olympic sports? What have you been doing about those sports?

  Mr Clegg: You are talking about sports right at the extreme of the spectrum and one of the challenges for us obviously is to bring them up to a standard where we feel that we are justified in entering them for the Games in 2012. Of course, by virtue of being the host nation we get automatic qualification in all of the team sports, but some of our team sports are very under-developed—take handball as a very good example. I was with the British Handball Team earlier in the year at their national conference in Leeds, and it is really exciting from our perspective to see how this initiative has been grasped by them and how it is raising the whole levels of performance, and now we have British handball players embedded in clubs in Denmark. We are seeing all sorts of new athletes coming into the sport who had never heard about handball before. As a direct result of staging the Games in 2012, we are also seeing some cross-fertilisation between sports as athletes see that there is an opportunity, where perhaps in their chosen sport they realised they were never going to quite make it, they could be an Olympic athlete in 2012 in a different sport. So whether that sport can get to the standard that we believe will be necessary—because I am sure you would accept there is no point in us taking a quota place to enter a men's handball team if they get beaten 56-nil, 56-nil, 56-nil in the round-robin competition. That is not in anyone's interests—it is not in the athletes' interests, it is not in the sport's interests and it is not in the British Team's interests. But we will do everything to support them as a service organisation. The British Olympic Association is a membership organisation; my Chairman and I are accountable to sport, to the governing bodies and we are there to provide services to support them to ensure that they are given every opportunity of reaching their full potential.

  Q226  Alan Keen: I thought it was a crackpot scheme, if you do not mind me saying. Handball is played, is softball in the Games? Softball was in Athens.

  Mr Clegg: Softball is actually one of our more competitive team sports within the Olympic programme. Once again, we very narrowly failed to qualify to send a team to Beijing. Regrettably, particularly because it is a sport for women only, softball will be dropped from the programme together with baseball after the Games in Beijing; it is the first time since 1936 that the Olympic Movement has lost a sport.

  Q227  Alan Keen: When we are so desperate to get medals is it not a waste of money to put money into these very, very minor sports? I love the Olympic culture and tradition but it just seems to be relatively a lot of money to spend when we are so desperate for every halfpenny we can try to keep under the budgeted figure.

  Mr Clegg: We are an Olympic family and it was the entire British Olympic family—the British Olympic Association—that subscribed to putting a bid forward for London 2012 including, I have to say, all of the winter sports. The Mission Statement that we have as an organisation is to lead the largest and most successful team to fourth place in the medals table in 2012, whilst developing the Olympic Movement in the UK. Therefore, there will be an expectation by the International Olympic Committee that we will be a very large team because actually how are we going to sell handball tickets in 2012 if there is not even a British team participating? So it is right and proper that as the host nation we should aspire to fielding the full team of 755 athletes in the British team in 2012.

  Q228  Alan Keen: I have forgotten now: does the host nation have the opportunity to add a sport?

  Mr Clegg: No.

  Lord Moynihan: Sadly not, no.

  Mr Clegg: That is entirely within the gift of the IOC Executive Committee.

  Q229  Alan Keen: That is a shame; darts could have been something worth putting in!

  Mr Clegg: Eton Fives I think is something we might win a gold medal in!

  Chairman: Rosemary McKenna.

  Q230  Rosemary McKenna: My bid is for netball! Can I raise the issue again that I raised previously about the intellectually disabled athletes who were barred in Singapore? The organisation itself has brought in very stringent rules and is appealing to have the ban removed. What are you doing to help that so that they can take part?

  Mr Lane: I can say that our position has been very clear right from the Sydney Games that we believe wholeheartedly that athletes with an intellectual disability should be part of the Games, but they need to be part of the Games under fair and consistent rules which are comparable to those of the other disability organisations. Just to put it into context for you, just to give you some numbers, in fact we are only talking about seven athletes in Atlanta and eight in Sydney. So as a percentage of the team as a whole it is not a huge number. However, that being said we are very consistent in our approach and we have urged the IPC and INAS FID, the international body for intellectual disabilities to deal with this issue, and I think as Paul Deighton said earlier whilst we were at the General Assembly in Seoul only in this past fortnight we in fact introduced an amendment to an Icelandic motion urging the IPC to set a target of 2012 for readmission and to make that decision early so that the necessary funding could be put in place for those athletes to prepare. So that decision will need to be taken by January 2009 at the latest in order to make sure that those athletes can adequately prepare, and we certainly would urge IPC and INAS FID to carry on with that and we would certainly urge UK Sport and the other funders to be consistent in making preparations for that to happen too.

  Q231  Rosemary McKenna: Are they failing to get funding just now because they not eligible?

  Mr Lane: They are indeed, yes.

  Q232  Rosemary McKenna: UK Sport is not able to fund them because they are ineligible at the moment. So the sport is failing because that support is not there.

  Mr Lane: Yes. I think it is a bit of a vicious circle and it is one which is highly regrettable. They are a significant part of our population and we abhor discrimination of any kind.

  Q233  Rosemary McKenna: Absolutely and I just know the joy that the people from my area get out of competing in the Special Olympics, which are quite different and separate—quite, quite separate.

  Mr Lane: Very much so.

  Q234  Rosemary McKenna: Very, very much so, but these are athletes with tremendous ability who should be taking part in the Paralympics.

  Mr Lane: We would agree with you wholeheartedly not least because we believe they will win medals too, so that will add to our medal targets.

  Rosemary McKenna: Exactly. Thank you.

  Chairman: Mike Hall.

  Q235  Mr Hall: The fundamental issue about setting targets is that you really have to achieve them. There is no point taking weak targets but if you set tougher targets they seem to fail, so it is a real minefield. The approach we have to this is that we are going to spend an awful lot of money on it, are we not? We are giving Sir Clive Woodward's Elite Performance Service more than a generous amount of money to encourage our elite athletes—£150,000 per elite athlete. Is that figure right?

  Mr Clegg: I am sorry, Mr Hall, I do not think you are giving anything to Sir Clive Woodward's programme. The British Olympic Association will fund the Elite Performance Programme that is developed under Clive Woodward's leadership and we are entirely responsible for securing the funding from the commercial sector.

  Q236  Mr Hall: I understand that, but it is £150,000 per year per athlete, is it?

  Mr Clegg: That is the budget figure that we are working on, yes.

  Q237  Mr Hall: With the UK Sport's World Class Podium they are spending about £75,000 per athlete; so are we expecting twice as much from Sir Clive Woodward's programme than the UK Sport programme?

  Mr Clegg: It is a complementary programme. What we are doing is identifying some of the world's leading practitioners and bringing them over to this country to work with a small number of athletes, with the support of UK Sport, to ensure, as my Chairman said earlier on, no stone is left unturned in making sure that the whole country can be proud of the performance of the British team in 2012. That is our contribution to that process.

  Q238  Mr Hall: You said they are complementary; they are not competing for the same amount of money then from the private sector?

  Mr Clegg: Absolutely not. The British Olympic Association traditionally derives all of its funding from the commercial sector. We are the custodians of the Olympic Rings and we will work in an exclusive basis with a limited number of supporters of the Olympic Movement both internationally and domestically. We are very restricted in terms of the commercial partners that we can work with.

  Lord Moynihan: If I might just add to that, the reason why the funding is so complementary is because the £600 million package that was announced by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer cum Prime Minister is made up of Lottery money, government funding and a proportion from sponsorship. The funding of the Woodward programme is from the TOP sponsors and the Tier One sponsors which have bought the Olympics rights, either from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne in the case of the TOP sponsors, or the first tier sponsors from LOCOG, and so we have looked to that group who wish, in addition to have the benefit of the rights, also to fund and support the athletes. So it is a completely different market than the £100 million market that the Government will be targeting because they have no rights to sell.

  Q239  Mr Hall: What about UK Sports though? I am not quite getting my head around this. Clive Woodward's programme is £150,000 per elite athlete, UK Sport's is £75,000; it is not the same amount of money and it is not the same athletes, but yet it is a complementary programme.

  Mr Clegg: We are looking to work with a very small number of athletes, though of course the World Class Performance Plan goes over all of the summer sports in the programme, all 26, and goes through a number of levels as well. We are looking to work with the athletes that we believe will be on the podium in 2012 because I think we need to be very clear that generally speaking the man or the woman on the streets of this country would judge the success of the Games in London not by how efficient the transport runs in London, not by how beautifully architecturally designed the stadiums are, but by how many British athletes stand on the podium with medals round their neck. That is a very serious responsibility that we at the British Olympic Association shoulder and we need to work, as we are working, in very close collaboration with the government agency to ensure that every athlete, as I keep saying, is given the opportunity of reaching their full potential.

  Lord Moynihan: It is complementary and it is additive. What you are doing is having a strong programme through a governing body for an individual athlete, through the UK Sport programme, and then over and above that a support mechanism of Clive Woodward's programme, which they would not have if Clive Woodward's programme did not exist. So the reason why the Australians have recently responded by looking with a degree of envy at this additional programme is because nowhere amongst the National Olympic Committees which I have discussed this with, is there a programme that is so comprehensively focused right at the top, which effectively removes in many respects the potential for losing. It takes risks away, this programme, the elements which cause greater uncertainty about an athlete's performance at the very top level. It is highly scientific; it is wholly complementary to the overall funding of the sports, a point that has been looked at by the Minister, Gerry Sutcliffe, on three occasions with Clive Woodward when he has presented to Gerry Sutcliffe; a point that has been recognised and supported by UK Sport when they were present in the form of their Chair at the launch of the Woodward programme recently. And it is a very specific programme looking at the athletes who we are expecting to deliver gold and to de-risk the chances that they will not deliver, and I would welcome Members of the Committee at some stage to have a presentation from Clive Woodward and come over and see him working with one or two of the sports so that you can see how this works in practice. I think that it might be of great interest to you and we would be more than happy to organise that possibly with the first sport that he is going to be working with, namely judo.

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