New Olympic funding drive announced

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The Independent Online

A new effort to plug a £50m funding gap for Olympic athletes has been announced today.

Aimed primarily at London 2012 sponsors, a new partnership called Team 2012 and made up of the main Olympic organisations has been launched to pull in private sector cash.

Money raised will be targeted at elite Olympic and Paralympic athletes, but also for an initial trial of the British Olympic Association's elite coaching programme being run by Sir Clive Woodward.

London 2012 chief executive Paul Deighton said: "We have always believed that delivering a memorable Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012 will need strong British performances.

"We have been happy to lend our expertise in raising domestic sponsorship to this project."

UK Sport announced last month that eight Olympic and four Paralympic sports would only get between a quarter and a half of the cash they received in the build-up to the Beijing Games as a result of the Government's failure to raise any cash from the private sector.

Team 2012 is made up of the London 2012 organising committee (LOCOG), funding body UK Sport, the British Olympic Association and the British Paralympic Association.

UK Sport's chief executive John Steele said: "For UK Sport this represents an ideal long-term solution. It creates a clear commercial landscape with a long-term legacy of fundraising."

Andy Hunt, chief executive of the BOA, added: "We welcome this exciting initiative as it is about elite British sport partnering with the private sector to make sure that Team GB is as well prepared as possible for London 2012 and beyond."

The partnership will give sponsors the chance to sponsor both the 2012 Olympics and British athletes involved in the Games. It will also allow smaller businesses and even individuals to sponsor athletes.

The new partnership was launched by Andy Burnham, secretary of state for culture, media and sport, at a function for London 2012 sponsors today.

Burnham said: "I challenged our Olympic and Paralympic partners to come together and develop a strong and exciting proposition for business to support our medal prospects and I am very pleased that they have stepped up to the plate.

"This private sector funding stream will boost our medal chances even further and leave a lasting legacy from the Games. We know times are tough for many businesses, but this is a huge opportunity to be associated with the success of our athletes and the excitement that has surrounded Olympic and Paralympic sport since last summer's triumphs in Beijing - to give something and get something back in return."

SkillsActive - the Sector Skills Council for Active Leisure and Learning - are another organisation trying to help bridge the funding gap.

They provide Advanced Apprenticeships in Sporting Excellence (AASE) to help athletes keep their sporting careers on track and assisted Beijing hero Rebecca Adlington in the run-up to last year's Games.

Stephen Studd, chief executive of SkillsActive, said: "The announcement of the Team 2012 partnership is great news for National Governing Bodies of Sport and should be welcomed by the sporting community. This type of funding will certainly compliment the AASE qualification that SkillsActive provides and is going to boost Team GB's medal chances in the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games even further."

Shadow Olympics minister Hugh Robertson said the gap should have been plugged three years ago.

Robertson said: "The Government's failure raise the £100million private finance promised by Gordon Brown in the 2006 Budget has left a massive hole in elite athlete funding and we therefore welcome the fact BOA, BPA, LOCOG and UK Sport will plug the shortfall.

"The tragedy for those sports and athletes who have lost out on funding in the interim is that this money was not raised three years ago when the sponsorship market was immeasurably more healthy."