Belfast Telegraph

£2.3m invested but no medals in Rio for our athletes... so did we get value for all the money?

By Adrian Rutherford

More than £2m was pumped into the search for Northern Ireland's would-be stars of the Rio Olympics - where we failed to land a single medal.

Eight governing bodies benefited from funding from Sport NI in a four-year period.

The money covered sports ranging from athletics and boxing to hockey and equestrian.

A total of 28 competitors from Northern Ireland were in Rio - 20 represented Team Ireland with a further eight in action for Team GB.

After a five-medal haul at London 2012, the failure to land even one in Rio this summer was widely seen as a disappointment.

According to Sports Minister Paul Givan, around £2.3m of Sport NI funding went on Olympic sports.

He was responding to a question from UUP MLA Andy Allen.

Mr Givan said: "Sport NI, an arm's-length body of my department, currently provides funding to Olympic sports through its athlete investment programme and performance focus programme. For the period April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2017, total funding of £2,347,929 has been awarded to governing bodies with athletes competing at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games."

A breakdown of the funding is:

  • £370,728 to Athletics Northern Ireland.
  • £516,100 to the Irish Athletic Boxing Association.
  • £274,585 to Horse Sport Ireland.
  • £97,100 on Irish Ladies Golf Union.
  • £356,352 on Royal Yachting Association NI.
  • £390,500 on Triathlon Ireland.
  • £65,000 on the Northern Ireland Archery Association.
  • £277,064 on the Ulster Hockey Association.

Mr Allen, who obtained the details in an Assembly question, said it was vital that athletes had access to proper funding.

"I would pay tribute to all our athletes and I want to ensure enough investment is being made to help them realise their full potential," he said.

"We have athletes who are going to represent Northern Ireland as part of Team GB or Team Ireland on the world stage, and it is important we give them every possible chance to win medals.

"We have to ensure that Sport NI, the Department for Communities and any other department that has a stake are investing the maximum amount that they possibly can in the athletes to achieve that success."

High performance athletes in Northern Ireland are supported by Sport NI through an athlete investment programme. Through this programme Sport NI has invested £3,178,493 of Exchequer funding between 2013 and 2016 and £1,000,000 Lottery funding for 2016/17.

Sport NI assesses the athletes and teams against the agreed performance standards. It also has the performance focus programme. Through this, Sport NI is investing £12.725m between 2013 and 2017 to create conditions affording athletes a greater chance of future success.

Sport NI said: "In this Olympic cycle, Northern Ireland produced 15.5 Olympians per million inhabitants - Great Britain produced only 5.8 and Ireland 10.6. Following each Olympic Games there are attempts to calculate the typical cost of winning an Olympic medal.

"For the GB system this has been calculated as £4.1m investment per medal calculated across the four-year period of the Rio 2016 cycle. In comparative terms the investment levels available within Northern Ireland are lower."

Sport NI said even though no medals were won, Northern Ireland still had a successful Olympics. "Twenty-eight NI athletes competed at the Olympics, the highest number ever, up from 20 in London and eight in Beijing," it added. "While the repeat Olympians and medallists at London 2012 were unable to repeat that success, 19 (68%) of the competing NI athletes finished in the top 10 of their event."

Northern Ireland athletes won a record-breaking haul of medals at London 2012. Rowers Richard Chambers and Peter Chambers won silver and Alan Campbell bronze for Team GB. Boxers Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan took bronze for Team Ireland.

Those five were again expected to be our best hopes in Rio.

While Conlan was knocked out by a controversial decision, the other four didn't get close to challenging for a medal.

Belfast Telegraph


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