In the wake of Team GB’s underwhelming Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics performance, it truly does beg the question – are winter sports underfunded and under appreciated across UK governing bodies?
Team GB had set out to equal their tally of five medals across all competitions as per their last two campaigns in PyeongChang and Sochi.
In what has been sensationally described as their worst Winter Olympics in 30 years by media sources such as the telegraph, Team GB had to settle for just two medals (one Gold, one Silver) and a 19th place position on the overall leaderboards, a staggering 35 medals behind leaders Norway.
This is not an attempt to disparage or throw shade at our wonderful athletes, many of whom will ultimately bear the bruises of defeat, and have had to ruminate over their personal and collective teammate’s flickering hopes as they burn out in Beijing. Rather, I write this blog in the hope to understand the true extent of our shortcomings as a nation, in an attempt to better prepare and make adjustments in the best interests of our sportspeople, winter sports and future Olympic campaigns.
Were Team GB set up to fail?
The term ‘funding’ has been thrown around like a hot potato since China signed out with a showstopping closing ceremony.
People were quick to note that the UK government are happy to put a £232 million injection to help British and Northern Irish athletes prepare for the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. In stark contrast, UK sport’s £28 million pound funding for the Beijing 22 Winter Olympics equates to approximately £600k per month over the four-year Olympic cycle, which, when considering the scale of the competition, the number of competitors, coaches, equipment, training and facilities necessary, is not a significant level of funding.
It is perhaps more eye-opening that there is such a gulf in funding between the winter sports. Short track speed skating is tallied at £4.8m, figure skating £1.2m, ski and snowboard £5.1m and bobsleigh £5m, whereas curling receives £5.4m and skeleton £6.5m. One must assume that the disparity is determined by the projected success within each of these sports.
Interestingly, when asked whether the £28m funding would be adjusted in accordance with Team GB’s recent performance in the Winter games, UK Sport’s CEO Sally Munday reflected by stating: “We are committed to winter sports and want to have an ever greater footprint. Exactly what those figures look like will be determined this Summer but I certainly don’t expect us to be decreasing our investment in winter sports.”
Those in favour of reducing funding for the Winter Olympics will argue that winter sports lacks the fundamental power to inspire young people to engage in physical participation in a United Kingdom bereft of the natural and human-built facilities.
Sports For Champions’ inspirational athlete school visits
At Sports For Champions, we believe this to be a cyclical argument. Whilst in part true, the UK’s climate is not a natural fit for winter sports, however, on the contrary, through our inspirational athlete school visits, we’ve been privy to an increase in school requests for our very own athlete ambassador, Team GB two-person Bobsleigh pilot Montell Douglas.
Additionally, without ample funding, participation is far less likely given the distances that families would have to travel to introduce or to support their children’s ongoing training commitments.
When compared with the countries that dominate the winter sports, Great Britain’s lack of funding pays an instrumental role in the culture of dismissing winter sports.
After presenting a balanced argument taking both perspectives into account, I will summarise this blog post with the same question I used to initiate discussion – are winter sports underfunded and under appreciated across UK governing bodies?
Whatever your opinion, we strongly encourage you to share your thoughts with us in the comment section down below.
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