With some 36 days to go until the 2004 Olympics get underway, UK Sport today looked beyond Athens and announced the funding package available to support leading athletes up to the next summer Games in Beijing 2008.
Whilst it will be some time before amounts to be invested in individual sports are known, a total of £98m has been set aside for the UK's World Class Performance Programme between 2005 and 2009. This compares with expenditure of around £94m for the 2001-2005 period.
The announcement heralded a more targeted approach to funding by UK Sport to tie in with a new One Stop approach it has developed for the UK's highest priority Olympic sports, together with the home country sports councils. The move comes following consultation with sports over their needs for the period up to Beijing.
"We are pleased to be able to increase funding to the nation's top sports and performers at a time when financial pressures are particularly acute. We have only been able to achieve this by taking a long hard look at our own operation and deciding what our priorities are and what changes we needed to make to ensure that everything we deliver is truly world class", said Sue Campbell, UK Sport's Chair.
"We are entering a new era in British sport, one where all the agencies that are responsible for producing or supporting excellence are committed to work together to produce a coordinated system that generates world class output. That means one where the best performance directors, coaches, sports scientists and practitioners are in place to support our athletes and contribute to system development. This is a massive goal, but one that's made easier by the funding continuity we have been able to deliver."
The figures are contained within UK Sport's new business plan which will govern its work for the next four year period. In addition to setting the overall funding figure, UK Sport have also made an element of it - £2m per annum - available to the nation's highest priority sports in advance, to allow them to secure the services of their key staff for the next four year cycle.
The Beijing Olympic cycle will also be the first where the new 'One Stop Planning' approach will be in place, which will see a coordination of all the athlete support programmes across the UK - including the home country sports councils and their respective institutes - to eliminate any gaps or inconsistencies in the system caused by duplication. In addition, UK Sport recently signed a partnership agreement with the British Olympic Association, which will ensure that the two organisations work seamlessly through the Athens Games and into the Beijing cycle.
Individual sports will receive outline details of their respective four year funding packages in advance of competition getting underway in Athens. These figures will be reviewed after Athens when UK Sport and the BOA have had an opportunity to look at overall performance and assess what there required to develop a winning formula for the future.