By Mike Rowbottom
July 12 - Britain’s 2010 Winter Olympians are the poor relations compared to their counterparts in the summer Games as London 2012 funding rises, and many of them were badly let down by their national governing bodies.
These are the two main findings of the British Athletes Commission’s (BAC) scathing report based on the responses of the questionnaire given to every competing Briton at the 2010 Vancouver Games, of whom 87 per cent responded.
"As was highlighted in the Torino Report four years ago, the Winter Olympians remain a poorly funded team," the report says.
"Even those successful sports have a significantly smaller budget than equivalent summer sports, due to London 2012 and perhaps an apathy for Winter performance from key sporting organisations.
"Winning the 2012 bid for London was fantastic for British summer sports, and the Government have rightly added to the funding pot in order to achieve great results on home soil.
"While this is excellent news for the summer sports, those doing winter disciplines are further left behind as they will receive none of this (and are also out of the gaze of potential sponsors).
"To put it into context, summer sports will receive a total of £309.2 million ($464.8 million) for the 2012 Olympiad, while the budget for winter sport for the 2010 Olympiad was £6.5 million ($9.7 million)."
In its conclusion, after noting that the single gold medal achieved by Amy Williams in the skeleton event meant Britain finished 19th overall, two places higher than in Turin four years earlier, the report states winning two medals was "a realistic and reasonable assumption."
It goes on: "Unfortunately this was not achieved and the sports and parent organisations need to discover why and rectify the problem areas…
"Above all else, this report has highlighted that many of Britain’s 2010 Winter Olympians are distinctly unhappy with their National Governing Bodies in most areas of operation.
"The Board, management, staff and coaches need to have a long, frank and comprehensive look at themselves and humbly seek advice and guidance from other NGBs, from the BOA (British Olympic Association) and from UK Sport, to get their houses in order.
"Another clear finding is that many winter Olympians are not part of a Lottery funded programme and are struggling financially.
"This is obviously not the route to improve results and medal haul…"
In the finance and funding section, it is reported that "the overall financial picture has deteriorated over the past four years."
The section added: "A total of 49 per cent of athletes were in financial debt as a result of being an elite athlete, with the mean amount being £8,881 ($13,352).
"This is a significant increase from 37 per cent at £6,500 ($9,773) four years ago and is a worrying statistic."
A total of 69 per cent of athletes were "dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied" with the current funding system compared to 36 per cent from four years ago, and 67 per cent were unaware of what results were required for them to achieve an APA eligibility requirement compared to 38 per cent from four years ago.
Among the report’s recommendations are that UK Sport should continue funding all improving top 18 athletes from Vancouver, and that the Government should "demonstrate reasonable support for the Winter Olympic team for Sochi 2014 and enable them to achieve historic results."
Coaching problems were also identified.
"Worryingly the overall satisfaction with the standard of centrally-provided technical coaches [in-season] is only 48 per cent, for the Vancouver Olympians.
"Worse still 23 per cent of athletes are not even provided with a coach during the season."
The BAC, established in 2004, comprises Adam Pengilly, Karen Pickering, Georgina Harland, Leon Taylor, Graham Gristwood, Elizabeth Johnson, Goldie Sayers. Susanne Risbridger and Peter Gardner.
The Vancouver report is the ninth Olympic athletes’ report and fourth Winter Games report.
"The opinions and recommendations have been vital triggers for change in sport over the past 18 years."
On the brighter side, 80 per cent attended pre-Olympic training camps and all were satisfied or very satisfied.
And the majority of athletes were very satisfied with support services provided during the Games by the BOA.
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