Games heroes to get 'people's gong'

Government brokers compromise, with revived British Empire Medal to honour Team GB's top athletes at London 2012

Britain's gold-medal winners will not be ignored by the honours system under a compromise deal struck after the outcry sparked by the revelation that victorious Olympians would not automatically receive a gong from the Queen. The Independent on Sunday understands that those who miss out on major honours, from knighthoods to MBEs, will instead be given the British Empire Medal (BEM), which has been revived by David Cameron after a 10-year absence to coincide with the Queen's Jubilee.

However, there are also moves to "manage expectations" about Jessica Ennis becoming a dame in the New Year's Honours and Sir Chris Hoy being elevated to the House of Lords.

The BEM, known as "the people's gong", is usually given to those whose work benefits charities and local communities. Unlike the award of more distinguished medals, it does not involve a visit to Buckingham Palace, but can be presented by a local dignitary or even be sent through the post.

A sporting precedent for awarding the BEM was set in June when Terry Downes, Britain's oldest surviving former world boxing champion, was given one. The BEM is awarded by local lord-lieutenants, appointed by the Queen to represent the monarch in every county in the UK. They were among those who spoke out against the idea that Olympic medallists should automatically receive an honour.

Awarding the BEM would seek to defuse the row over new rules designed to limit the number of honours available, which require recipients to "give back" to their sport and community. The Government was stung by suggestions that it had "snubbed" Olympians, and insisted that an exception would be made for outstanding performances at the London Games.

Baroness Grey-Thompson, who sits on the sports honours committee chaired by Lord Coe, said: "It seems they [Whitehall] have been trying to cut back on giving civil servants knighthoods and things, and now they have run into a bit of a sticky wicket with sport. I know there are a lot of people saying that Chris Hoy should become a lord and Jess Ennis a dame, but it is time to manage expectations about that." This week the Public Administration Select Committee, which has been looking into the honours system, is expected to call for an end to a "Buggins's turn" approach to the awarding of honours, insisting they should be given on merit, whether to sporting figures, celebrities or civil servants. During the inquiry, Paul Flynn, a Labour MP, criticised what "seems to be a completely arbitrary system". He said: "Many people are worthy of honours; few get them."

The Association of Lord-Lieutenants told the committee: "We regret any knee-jerk award or removal of honour, especially in response to media clamour. In the past, it has been disappointing to see an entire sports team appointed MBE for transient success when those who have, unremunerated, given years of service have much higher hurdles to leap before they can hope [for] an award."

How we broke the story

The row over athletes' honours erupted after The IoS revealed that tough new rules, demanded by David Cameron, had blocked a repeat of the honours windfall after Beijing. Quotas published in November allow for one sporting knighthood or damehood, four CBEs, 20 OBEs and 38 MBEs. But No 10 insisted there were no quotas, and sources said the Prime Minister wanted to see every gold medallist recognised.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent