Clive Commandments: Mind your language and keep rooms tidy
With a £13m budget and a huge backroom staff, no stone will be left unturned in hunt for more GB medals
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Wednesday 13 July 2011
Britain's Olympic team will be backed by their biggest ever budget and be better prepared than any of their predecessors. The £13m budget will fund the largest British delegation – 550 athletes, 450 support staff and 300 volunteers – at an Olympic Games in more than a century.
The team will also be asked to commit to five commandments outlined by Sir Clive Woodward, the British Olympic Association's director of elite performance and one of the deputy chef de missions at the Games themselves. Elements of the five pillars of behaviour will include not swearing, keeping their accommodation tidy in the Olympic village and using social media, such as Twitter, responsibly. Athletes will be asked to sign a large flag to signal what Woodward describes as a "handshake agreement", an event that is likely to be staged at the team's pre-Games holding camp at Loughborough University, where the team will be kitted out.
The entire Olympic process has been exhaustively explored by the BOA in an attempt to produce sporting success that betters Team GB's performance in Beijing, where they finished fourth in the medal table.
"We want to ensure every stone has been turned," said Andy Hunt, chief executive of the BOA and the team's chef de mission at the Games. "The scope of services and support for the athletes is unprecedented. There will be an unparalleled level of preparation."
The organisers of the London Games have received extensive praise from the International Olympic Committee over the readiness of the venues with just over a year to go. Hugh Robertson, the sport and Olympics minister, said yesterday that Britain's standing among the IOC has never been higher – in marked contrast to its international relations in football – and now the focus is switching on to the preparations of the home team.
While Hunt struck a note of caution over Britain's place in the medal table, he did state that the basic aim is to win "more medals from more sports" than the 47 garnered in Beijing from 11 sports.
He said: "At every Games more nations medal and the winning margins are decreasing. We have to recognise that maintaining that fourth place in the medal table is going to be very, very tough. The difference between fourth, fifth and sixth place could be one or two medals, but I really do believe we will deliver more medals from more sports. We had an extraordinary Games in Beijing and caught a lot of those nations by surprise but the hunter will become the hunted in London."
Peter Keen, elite performance director of UK Sport, and the man who will effectively set the targets for the 26 sports that Britain will compete in during the Games, struck a more bullish note. He said: "This could be incredibly good. The data and insight suggest there is more to come. Finishing fourth will be a stretch and is ambitious but anything less than that would be dishonest. The opportunity is immense."
To that end the stones are being turned over with an extraordinary degree of thoroughness. Athletes will use foam rather than hand gel to wash their hands in the Olympic village as that has been discovered to provide longer protection. The levels and speed of analysis will be better than ever, much of it coming from a team of analysts, each an expert in a particular sport, based on the 13th floor of the neighbouring Westfield Stratford City shopping centre that overlooks the eastern edge of the park. Nothing has been left to chance – how best to wash and disinfect laundry has been explored, Stella McCartney has advised on the kit so athletes "look and feel fantastic." When members of Team GB turn up to be kitted out in a special building in Loughbrough, they will have personal shoppers available, while athletes in all sports will also now each receive two tickets for friends or family.
The commitment to the British Olympic cause was underlined by Dave Brailsford, who oversees Team GB cyclists as well as Team Sky. "The Olympics is 100 per cent the priority," he said. Next year's Tour de France will be used in effect as a warm-up event for the goings-on across the Channel just a few days later. The road race – in which Mark Cavendish is the star turn – is scheduled to run six days after the Tour finishes in Paris. Some of Sky's British riders, such as Geraint Thomas, may be rested for the Tour, whereas others such as Bradley Wiggins are likely to take part.
The £13m budget will be raised partly through sponsorship, partly through central funding and partly through selling Team GB merchandise around the Games. But Hunt insists there will be no problem in achieving their target, which actually works out slightly less per athlete than in Beijing as basic costs are cheaper for a home team. He also stressed that London is not the be all and end all for the BOA and attention is already being paid to the next winter Games in Sochi in 2014 and the Rio Olympics in 2016. "We are not mortgaging the future," he said.
Woodward, who yesterday reiterated his commitment to BOA, has used his experiences of his first Games as deputy chef de mission in Beijing to come up with five pillars, each with three clauses that he wants athletes to agree to follow. The former England rugby supremo wants to create a "One Team GB" with cyclists, handballers, gymnasts and athletes all following a universal "culture." Performance, responsibility, unity, pride and respect are his five key areas – which include team members watching their language, tidying their rooms, and not disturbing other athletes in the Olympic village with any celebrations.
"There is the whole of London to do that," said Woodward. In fact the BOA are on to that one as well, exploring the idea of a central London base where team members can go after their events to celebrate. They expect it to be busy.
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