Team GB chief says medal target for London 2012 is not set in stone

Powered by article titled “Team GB chief says medal target for London 2012 is not set in stone” was written by Owen Gibson, for The Guardian on Monday 16th April 2012 22.00 UTC

The Team GB chef de mission who will lead a home team of 550 athletes to the London Games in just over 100 days’ time has claimed it would be “ludicrous” if they are deemed failures because they don’t achieve fourth in the medal table.

Andy Hunt, who is also the chief executive of the British Olympic Association, said that the goal of equalling Team GB’s achievement in Beijing was “hard”, but achievable.

UK Sport, the funding agency that invests up to £143m a year of exchequer and Lottery money in Olympic sport, has long insisted in the name of public accountability that fourth in the medal table is a hard and fast target. Next month it will announce the range of medals it expects each individual sport to achieve.

But the BOA prefers to call it an “aspiration” in the belief that it will pile too much pressure on athletes to promise a fourth-placed finish that is dependent on so many variables.

“It’s going to be hard. I truly believe we’ve got the ability to deliver it if everything goes right. But sport isn’t an exact science,” said Hunt. “It is not a hard medal target, because if we were to do that there is a possibility we could deliver on more medals in more sports yet maybe – through the achievement of other nations – finish marginally in fifth or sixth position and be perceived as having failed.

“That would be ludicrous. If we end up with more medals and create a whole bunch of new role models, to judge we had failed would be crazy. The success of the Games is more than just achieving fourth place.”

The BOA will spend £13m sending the biggest ever British team of 550 athletes, 450 staff and 300 volunteers to the Games. Hunt says there is no performance benefit to setting a definitive medal table target, sticking instead to the mantra of “more medals in more sports than in over a century”.

In an interview with the Guardian, Hunt insisted that the BOA’s finances – the subject of intense scrutiny in recent years – were not “hand to mouth” but admitted outstanding fundraising efforts, including its drive to sell one million supporters’ scarves through Next, were key to hitting its targets. He also defended the decision to take on the dual role of BOA chief executive and chef de mission.

“The complexity and the integration of what we need to deliver, it would have been very hard to do it any other way. Everyone will judge the success or not of this, but I do think it has absolutely been the right model for a home Games environment,” he said.

Hunt also defended the Stella McCartney designed Team GB kit against critics who claimed it did not feature enough red, pointing out that previous kits had also been mainly blue or white. “We wanted something different, something unique. I’m really pleased with it, fashion is very subjective,” he said.

Late this month, the Court of Arbitration for Sport will rule on the BOA’s appeal against the World Anti-Doping Agency’s decision to rule it non-compliant with its global code. Wada believes that the BOA’s lifetime ban for serious drug cheats amounts to an “additional sanction” and is therefore at odds with its universal code.

Most legal experts expect the court to rule in Wada’s favour, clearing the way for the sprinter Dwain Chambers and cyclist David Millar to compete for Britain in the summer. Like the BOA chairman, Lord Moynihan, Hunt insisted they would be welcomed into the fold by the team management and hoped that the athletes would follow suit.

“If we were to lose, we will absolutely embrace any athletes that are able to compete as a result of the bylaw potentially falling away. We will set the tone. I hope that by setting the leadership tone in that way it will be reflected by the team,” he said.

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