Government lessen impact of Olympic funding shortfall

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The Independent Online

The Government today moved to limit the damage of a funding gap for Olympic sports by coming up with an extra £29m.

The extra cash, announced by culture secretary Andy Burnham to UK Sport's board today, means the shortfall for the run-up to the London 2012 Games is £50m rather than £79m.

It should mean that the medal target for the British team in London can remain fourth place in the table, although a number of sports where medal chances are very slim will still face funding cuts.

The individual Olympic sports will be told their level of funding tomorrow and whether they will have to implement any cuts in their programmes.

Expensive team sports with limited prospects such as volleyball, basketball and handball are most vulnerable to the cuts.

The funding gap arose after the Government's plan of attracting private sector investment failed to bring in any money at all. Both the British Olympic Association and the shadow Olympics minister Hugh Robertson have called on the Government to honour their original commitment, made in 2006, to £100m a year for Olympic sports.

The extra £29m means that £40m more will be spent overall up to London than was done in the run-up to Beijing, where the British team finished fourth in the medals table.

Burnham insists no sport "will be cut adrift" despite the funding shortfall.

Instead, Burnham insists those sports that are in an embryonic stage - and thus not a medal hope in London - will still be backed to be used as a launchpad for beyond 2012.

The destination of the funding will now be handled by UK Sport and Burnham told BBC Radio Five Live: "It's right that the politician's job ends here.

"I've got to deliver an overall funding package and set a broad direction but it is now for the experts to take difficult but realistic decisions sport by sport about where our medal potential lies.

"We all got a huge lift in the summer and though they didn't get the credit at the time, a lot of that was down to UK Sport.

"They have done a tremendous job over many years building an elite sports system in this country which truly is world class.

"Now it is for me to get out of their way, let them make those difficult calls but we are saying no sport will be cut adrift.

"(For) some of the sports in more of a developmental stage we are going to identify a way forward so they can really use London to act as a springboard for more success."

Burnham admitted the changed economic circumstances had been a factor in the amount of funding offered.

"We are also saying as a clear condition of the funding we are giving that all sports now are being asked to contribute to a wide-ranging private sector fund-raising drive called 'Medal Hopes' that will then bring in funds to get to our overall ambition for the London Games," Burnham continued.

"Since the end of the Beijing Games the world has changed somewhat.

"The global economy has changed significantly and the job I faced was to give sport certainty in this era.

"People can get on now and build for London.

"Having reached the limit of what we can give from public funds.... the public contribution is now topped up by private sector contributions and I see no lack of appetite out there for companies to get involved and support budding young sports people."