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A whole host of inspirational Olympic and Paralympic medallists from the past two decades, including Sir Chris Hoy, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and Nicola Adams OBE are today (Thursday 24 October) gathering at Westfield in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, to celebrate The National Lottery's 25th Birthday and its transformative effect on Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s medal success since 1997, when funding was first awarded to elite athletes.
A total of 25 medallists (both current and past legends) will attend the event, showcasing the 864 medals won by Britain’s Olympians and Paralympians since National Lottery funding for elite sport began in 1997. The activity has been set up to say thank you to National Lottery players who support the athletes to commit full time to their sport through grants provided by The National Lottery.
To date over 5,000 elite athletes have benefitted from National Lottery funding, enabling them to have access to some of the best coaching, facilities and support staff in the world. Recipients, past and present, include Dame Katherine Grainger, Baroness Tanni-Grey Thompson, Christine Ohuruogu MBE, Nicola Adams OBE and Max Whitlock MBE, as well as winter sports stars like Lizzy Yarnold OBE and Kelly Gallagher MBE.
At the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, before National Lottery funding began for elite sport, Great Britain ranked 36th in the Olympic medal table, with just one gold medal and a solitary female medallist. At Rio 2016, after almost two decades of funding from The National Lottery, both the Olympic and Paralympic teams finished second in the medal table. The impact of National Lottery funding has been truly significant, changing the face of elite sport in the country, and driving world class performances across a wide variety of sports.
One of Great Britain’s most successful athletes, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, who won 16 Paralympic medals, including 11 gold medals, over the course of a glittering 27-year career in top-flight athletics as a wheelchair racer and winner of The National Lottery’s Lifetime Achievement Award, says the impact of National Lottery funding is instrumental to Great Britain’s sporting achievements.
“National Lottery funding has transformed sport at all levels, including grass root clubs, facilities, coaches, the talent pathway and elite sport.
“The success we have as a sporting nation and Olympic and Paralympic support is down to every single person who has or will buy a National Lottery ticket. So, thank you so much The National Lottery and National Lottery players who have truly transformed the face of British sport and turned Great Britain into a powerhouse of medal success.”
Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: "The National Lottery and our elite sporting success go hand in hand - both are part of a great British success story that is both admired and envied around the world.
"Since National Lottery funding began in 1997, it has supported over 5,000 athletes across the United Kingdom, propelling many of them to win 864 medals at Olympic and Paralympic Games. The 25th birthday is an opportunity to recognise this and say thank you to every National Lottery player who has played their part in this success.
"We are committed to working with the National Lottery to help our elite athletes succeed in the future through long-term investment that also inspires everyone across the nation to get active."
Britain’s most decorated female Olympian and now Chair of UK Sport, Dame Katherine Grainger, feels lucky to have experienced the world of elite-level sport both before and after its transformation by National Lottery funding.
“I came into sport during an incredible period,” says Katherine who won a place in the British under-23 rowing team in 1997 and went on to medal at every Games from Sydney 2000 through to Rio 2016. “It’s easy to think National Lottery funding has always been there, but I remember the struggle athletes experienced to fully commit to their sport before it came along.”
“The National Lottery has been the absolute driving force in making GB a true world leader in Olympic and Paralympic sport. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to every National Lottery player for making all of our inspirational Olympic and Paralympic medal moments come true and long may this continue.”
The activity is part of a season of events to celebrate The National Lottery’s 25th Birthday. The events happening throughout October and into early December will reflect The National Lottery’s 25-year legacy, celebrating projects and people who have benefitted from National Lottery funding over the last quarter of a century.
Since The National Lottery’s first draw took place on 19 November 1994, more than £40 billion has been raised for good causes in the areas of arts, sport, heritage, culture, film, charity and community.
The 25th birthday is a moment to celebrate the extraordinary impact The National Lottery has had on the UK. Since The National Lottery began, over 565,000 individual grants have been awarded across the UK. That’s the equivalent of 200 life-changing projects in every UK postcode district.
The 25th Birthday National Lottery activities are a great opportunity to say thank you to National Lottery players for contributing around £30 million to good causes every week.