Ready, steady, go – the race to turn gold into millions

Britain's Olympic heroes in Beijing are being circled by increasing numbers of sports agents, multi-nationals and image consultants desperate to cash in on their new-found fame.

Behind the scenes in China's capital, newly crowned champions, from the swimmer Rebecca Adlington to the cyclists Bradley Wiggins and Chris Hoy, are being approached by PR gurus and corporate messengers, all waving blank cheques in the hope of attaching their brands to British sporting success at London 2012.

The rules of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), together with Olympic etiquette, censor the announcement of new deals during a tournament. But during the next few weeks the British Olympic Association (BOA) is expected to announce sponsorship contracts worth millions of pounds in several different sports. A BOA spokesman refused to be drawn on specific deals but, privately, officials admit that members of Team GB have been inundated with offers and inquiries from agents and sponsors.

Adlington, still only 19, has been the subject of more attention than most. She is the first British woman to win an Olympic swimming race in 50 years and the most successful British swimmer in a century, having smashed the world record for the 800m freestyle by two seconds which, having been set in the year of her birth, 1989, was the longest standing in the sport.

A spokesman for the governing body British Swimming, which represents Adlington, said: "Becky is still in Beijing after the most incredible week of her life. We've got to remember that she's only 19. Of course there will be a lot of sponsors queuing up but her priority is family time and rest."

Adlington, from Mansfield, who will shortly set off on a cruise around the Mediterranean, received phone calls from the producers of the BBC quiz show A Question of Sport even before she'd won her first gold. She is almost certain to get kit deals from the likes of Speedo or Adidas and could be endorsed by a bank or pharmaceutical company, for instance, to the tune of £150,000 a year. The new golden girl of British sport still receives an annual £1,000 grant from Mansfield district council for travel and accommodation costs. Over the weekend, she said she "got the feeling" her Lottery funding would go up from its current level of £12,000, but added: "I wouldn't accept anything that comes in the way of my swimming".

Ahead of Beijing, UK Athletics, the governing body, signed a deal with Alfa Romeo to provide all medal winners in track and field events with a sports car of their choice from the manufacturer. And Norwich Union agreed to pay £5,000, £4,000 and £3,000 respectively to winners of gold, silver and bronze medallists in athletics.

British stars of an earlier generation have made a fortune out of their sporting success. From 2001, Paula Radcliffe was paid £600,000 over four years by Nike, while Dame Kelly Holmes, an Olympic champion at 800m and 1500m, was awarded £100,000 from Reebok.

Mark Borkowski, author of The Fame Formula, said: "She [Adlington] compares well with Olympians like [rowers] Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent, in that swimming is not an exclusively middle class sport. Adlington has so much genuine heroism about her ... and that ordinariness will serve her well."

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
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine