British sports told to plan
BRITAIN'S Olympic sports are being encouraged to begin their planning for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro now in an attempt to stave off the slump in performance that has consistently hit host nations in the aftermath of holding a successful Games.
National governing bodies have been asked by UK Sport to submit their business plans for the next Olympic cycle by February before concentrating wholly on the London Games. The aim is to have plans in place to pick up after the 2012 Games finish in September and so avoid a decline that has affected every host in recent times.
"While London will burn bright it is so important that we have planned going forward," said Peter Keen, director of performance at UK Sport. "We are ready to go with our Rio planning process. It sounds controversial but we are confident it does not detract from London. After a home Games the biggest problem is managing the transition. We have to make sure there is no cliff edge in funding or momentum."
UK Sport have taken advice from those involved in the Sydney Games of 2000, which has become a closely studied model. In the 1996 Games, with the momentum of a home Olympics to come, Australia climbed the medals table to fourth - as Britain did in Beijing. They then increased that medal tally and held on to fourth place in 2000. Four years later they clung on to fourth but with fewer medals and then in Beijing they slipped to sixth with fewer medals still. It follows a regular pattern in modern Games with Greece, the United States, Spain and South Korea all suffering a post-host downturn.
"Our aspiration is to do what nobody has done before," said Liz Nicholl, UK Sport's chief executive. The unspoken ambition is to finish fourth in Rio - the aim for London - for a third Games in succession.
Nicholl has suggested to the Olympic sports that they formulate their plans with a 90 per cent level of funding in comparison to their current deal. Last year's government spending review has guaranteed funding through to 2015, when it will be reviewed.
As for London, UK Sport insist "Mission 2012" - supported by record levels of funding via the National Lottery and government - remains well on course to deliver fourth place and more medals than the 47 won in Beijing.
UK Sport, the body that oversees elite sport in this country, runs a traffic light system to determine where each sport is in preparation for next year's Olympic and Paralympics. Twenty three sports are now rated green, the highest number since the current cycle began in 2008. This year, with the world sailing championships ongoing, British sports have amassed 44 medals in Olympic disciplines. "We are in a good place," said Nicholl of sporting preparations for next year.