UK SPORT today released details of a massive £1.7 million investment programme in Paralympic sport to support the British team for the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens.
At the last Paralympic Games in Sydney the British team won 131 medals (41 Gold, 43 Silver, 47 Bronze) to finish second in the table behind Australia, the host nation, who won 149.
The new injection of Lottery funds – one of the largest ever investments in elite disabled sport in the UK – is a massive boost to the British Paralympic Association (BPA) as it begins its campaign towards Athens in 2004.
The £1.7M will be used by the BPA to prepare and send the British team to the Games and includes the costs of:
- Multi-sport preparation camps, held twice a year, that will help the athletes experience similar conditions and climates to those they can expect to face in Greece
- A new Sports Science and Medicine Panel
- A new dedicated Paralympic Medical Officer
- The association's Performance Director, who will oversee the programme, and the two Performance Managers
The funding award to the BPA complements UK Sport's annual investment of over £3 million in individual disability sports through its World Class Performance Programme.
SIR RODNEY WALKER, Chairman of UK Sport, said that the funding would enable a culture shift in the way Paralympic sport is administered in the UK.
"The Games in Sydney heralded a new dawn for Paralympic sport, both in terms of the performances by the athletes and the number of spectators," he explained. "It is clear that if Britain is to compete in this new professional era and improve upon the position achieved last time around then we must be prepared to provide the resources to make it happen.
"The funding from UK Sport will enable the British Paralympic Association to create a world-class environment for training and preparation, where the best athletes will be identified and nurtured so they can fulfil their potential. The support will also allow us to analyse world best practice and introduce programmes and processes to ensure we stay ahead of the game."
Meanwhile Phil Lane, Chief Executive of the BPA, said that the funding was crucial to the campaign: "The support of UK Sport is a vital part of our mission to be one of the world’s leading Paralympic nations in 2004 and allows us to continue implementing our plans for Athens. The Paralympic movement is financially less well-off than the Olympics and so revenue does not filter down to the national associations as readily as it does with the Olympic bodies. Without the help of Lottery funding our work would be severely hampered.
"The new Sports Science and Medicine Panel should have a terrific impact. It will allow us to harness the knowledge of a wide range of experts and plan our programme accordingly. At the elite level the difference between finishing in first or second place is minute so we must take advantage of new developments.
"The challenges ahead should not be underestimated, but the backing of UK Sport gives us a solid platform from which to achieve our goals."