Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic medal winners are to be given a separate honours list to ensure that there is not an artificial cap on the number of awards that can be handed out, Downing Street sources have confirmed.
In normal years, the committee which makes recommendations for sporting honours, chaired by the Olympic head Lord Coe, is able to put forward one name for a knighthood, four for CBEs, 20 OBEs and 38 MBEs.
But it is understood David Cameron has decided to place awards arising from the London 2012 Games outside the usual system, to enable the New Year’s Honours list to reflect the scale of achievement by British athletes.
“The detail is still to be worked out but the idea is that they will be dealt with separately but be announced at the same time as the New Year’s Honours list,” said a source.
It is expected that all the 29 Olympic gold medals winners, 17 silver winners and 19 bronze medalists will all be honoured in some form. But there could also be OBEs and MBEs - or even knighthoods - for the backroom staff and games volunteers who helped make London 2012 successful. Britain’s Paralympics squad which has so far won over 100 medals - including 31 golds - is expected to be honoured in the same way.
Among those in line for knighthoods include Olympic champions such as Bradley Wiggins, Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah, as well as Paralympians Sarah Storey - who brought her lifetime tally of golds up to a record-equalling 11.
Baroness Grey-Thompson, a member of the sports committee alongside Lord Coe, had called for “flexibility” over honours for athletes this year.
By allowing the establishment of a separate list for the London Games, Mr Cameron would avoid the potential embarrassment of seeing sporting personalities outnumbered by civil servants - or sacked members of the Government - in the honours list.