Inquiry into 'failures'

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The Independent Online
Britain has not had much luck at the Olympics so far and the government now wants to know the reason why. Yesterday, a meeting was demanded with the British Olympic Association to discuss the country's failure to make an impact at Atlanta.

The results so far are seen as a blow for the Prime Minister John Major, who last year announced a scheme, Raising The Game, designed to provide a boost for sports at all levels from schools to the international arena. Iain Sproat, the Minister for Sport, has telephoned Dick Palmer, the British Olympic Association secretary, to organise the debriefing session when the British team returns to London next week.

In the first 10 days of competition Britain has won only one gold medal - Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent in the coxless pairs. This dismal return has led to mounting fears that the final British haul will be the worst since the humiliation of 1952, when the British team returned home with just one gold medal and 10 other medals.

Palmer is convinced that the real problem is the lack of money for preparation, compared with the funding levels enjoyed in other countries. British medal hopefuls have to rely on money from the Sports Aid Foundation, which is funded from donations.

"People can moan that other nations are overtaking, and I would agree. But look at the money they have invested in sport," he said.

Palmer compared Britain to France, similar in population, which has won 13 gold medals. Palmer said: "I have a message for John Major. We need money. If the government wants a feel-good factor, they must provide it."