Brown to lift funding for 2012 Games and target fourth place

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The Independent Online

British athletes' prospects for the 2012 Olympics should receive a significant boost tomorrow when the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, unveils multi-million pound support for élite sports.

Treasury sources have indicated that one of the highlights of the budget speech will be a six-year funding programme aimed at increasing British participation in the London Games and promoting the home nation to fourth in the medals table, with 60-65 medals, behind China, Russia and the United States.

Brown's plans will be based on a blueprint prepared by UK Sport, the body which distributes Lottery money, which has asked for around £300m to achieve its Team GB goals.

Up to £49.5m per year would be on top of the existing £61m budget but the Treasury aims to raise some of that money from the private sector. Although it cannot offer companies any direct association with the Games it is thought that blue chip companies will be asked to sponsor individual athletes. Commercial use of the interlocking rings logo will be sold by 2012 organisers, London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG), to raise £700m towards the cost of the event. This has led to concerns that expected demands from Brown of an annual £20-£25m contribution towards the funding might be unrealistic.

The British Olympic Association says that only guaranteed funds over six years will secure the best coaches. A member of one Olympic sport's governing body said: "You cannot get blood out of the same stone twice and I'm sure LOCOG will not be keen for us to allow sponsors to use the 2012 branding that would be so attractive to companies because they want to use it themselves. We anticipate the announcement with interest and certainly if there is not the funding we need we will have to try to look elsewhere for it."

UK Sport delivered five funding options, starting with a request for £49.5m to target fourth place in the medal table. The second option is for £44m, with football and tennis funding themselves, going down to a fifth option of £28.8m targeting no increase in the number of medals (35) but increasing participation in Olympic sports.