Redgrave backs Olympic push

Mike Rowbottom welcomes the arrival of a pounds 6m investment in Britis h sport
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The Independent Online
Steven Redgrave, still debating whether to extend his own Olympic career, yesterday called upon the public to support a British bid for the Games.

Speaking at the launch of a four-year, pounds 6m investment in British sport by Barclaycard, the 38-year-old rower identified hosting the Olympics as the factor most likely to improve Britain's sporting standards. "An Academy of Sport would be very good, but having the Olympics would push us forward more than anything," he said.

He agreed with the British Olympic Association's policy of not bidding for the 2004 Games - "It would not give us enough time to set things up properly" - and backed the option of campaigning for the 2008 Games, if necessary as a prelude to a further bid for the Olympics of 2012.

"Our 10, 11 and 12-year-olds today are the ones who would be winning medals in 2012," he said. "If they can be brought up in the atmosphere of a national campaign for the Games, and if there is a good support structure in place, there is no reason why we couldn't win a lot of medals."

Redgrave is struggling over whether he should seek a fifth gold medal four years hence, at the age of 42. His reaction in the aftermath of his Olympic victory in Atlanta - "If anyone sees me going near another boat, they have my permission to shoot me" - may yet give way to a subsequent request: "Hold your fire." A decision is likely to be reached in the next couple of months, he says, and a pending chat with his coach, Jurgen Grobler, will be a crucial factor. "I don't want to look back in 10 years time and think I left the sport too early. I'm very tempted to go to Sydney. In four years I feel I could still be good enough."

Should Redgrave seek one last hurrah, he will be adequately funded. Most Britons further down the sporting scale could not say the same, but yesterday's deal, which has been nearly two years in the making, is aimed at supporting the lower tiers.

The pounds 6m will be divided roughly equally over three areas - equipping and training club volunteers, providing monthly cash awards of pounds 10,000 to outstanding performers which will be given to a local sports club of the winner's choice, and a support programme aimed at the 2000 Olympics.

The latter programme will provide annual grants of around pounds 2,000-pounds 3,000 for competitors just below the elite level, which is currently receiving the bulk of the Sports Aid Foundation grants as part of the Top 100 club.