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09 November 2009

Article by Ed Warner as featured in Athletics Weekly

With fewer than 1000 days to run until the London Games, the t shirt, pin badge and publicity machines are cranking into an even higher gear. Expect increasingly frenzied activity on almost all Olympic and Paralympic fronts. The big decisions, though, have long since been made. The same is very much true of our own performance programmes.

At a UKA Board meeting last week, Charles van Commenee, our Head Coach, and Neil Black, Head of Sports Science and Medicine, presented their review of the summer season past and their plans and expectations for the future. As one of my fellow directors reflected afterwards, from here we expect simply to be reviewing their work rather than having to approve any major strategic shifts. Their course, as it should be at this stage of the cycle, is very much set.

The success of the past season, not just at the World Championships but also at the various age group competitions, is reflected in the list of lottery-funded athletes that we announced late last month. Indeed in some ways we are financial victims of that success as the number of athletes funded at the highest levels has increased – reflecting their own individual championship successes – putting a squeeze on finite resources. A nice problem to have, though.

Finance remains one of the uncertainties surrounding our preparations for 2012. I’m pleased that UK Sport, the lottery funding agency, recognises the risks that this creates. Like all the sports, we’ll be pleased when we have full visibility through to the Games, but we understand how in these straitened economic times this isn’t yet possible. The recent Team 2012 initiative, supported by all our funded athletes, holds out hope that the overall funding gap for sports can be closed.

Financial constraints have been cited recently by the British Olympic Association as possibly affecting the overall size of the British team at the Games. Clearly, we will maintain a close engagement with the BOA as they debate team size over the coming months. As things stand we hope that athletics will provide more athletes than in previous games simply by virtue of the current trend of improving performances. And that they will prove competitive in the arena.

On the subject of the BOA, I’m pleased that last month our Chief Executive, Niels de Vos, was elected by the National Olympic Committee to join the Board of the BOA. Alongside David Hemery, a BOA Vice Chairman, this will provide a helpful strengthening of athletics’ voice within the Olympic movement in the UK.