Lottery funding for elite Olympic athletes would be better spent on sport for all and community projects – Helen Martin

With everything the UK is going through because of Covid and Brexit, it would be nice to think National Lottery funding could seriously help communities.

By Helen Martin
Monday, 16th August 2021, 4:55 am
Naomi Osaka, of Team Japan, lights the Olympic flame during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Games, at which Team GB athletes came fourth in the medal table (Picture: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Naomi Osaka, of Team Japan, lights the Olympic flame during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Games, at which Team GB athletes came fourth in the medal table (Picture: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

It does fund some charities but it is rather unlikely that it can deal with job losses, business collapses, food shortages, rising power bills which many can’t afford, climate change and other catastrophes.

For many years, it has helped people lead active lives by contributing to sports clubs, pitch access, and Edinburgh Leisure for example, so that fitness and physical fun wasn’t confined to the affluent.

But some clubs in Edinburgh have told my sporty husband that they have now lost that level of support, with vast amounts going to elite athletes and the UK’s participation in the Olympics – £345 million was the amount issued for this year’s British team and athletes in Tokyo, which was delayed from 2020 because of Covid.

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Does everyone support the Olympics? Is it really a vital, national, essential need for everyone in our country? How much does it benefit us all? Needless to say, that doesn’t apply to me, but the Olympics and the Lottery funding are becoming anti-Scotland.

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In 2022, the scheduled World Athletic Championships take place, as do the European Championships five weeks later. But within that five-week gap is the Commonwealth Games in which Scotland has its own national participation. Sporting leaders don’t want our successful athletes to take part in the Commonwealth Games.

The criteria for the level of funding they receive for the next Olympics at Paris in 2024 is determined by the success rate in the World and European events. And in order for Scots elites to reach the highest success, the Olympic organisers don’t want them to overdo or risk straining themselves by taking part in the Commonwealth Games.

Yet that is the only multi-sports event where Scotland competes as a nation. Ruling out the Commonwealth Games will potentially increase the money for UK teams and Olympic athletes.

The plan appears to be that the Commonwealth Games becomes a lower grade event, perhaps for those still developing skills, and possibly a junior and more minor event.

It’s very possible that Scottish athletes and teams who opt out of the Commonwealth Games to boost their financial support for the 2024 Olympics may be resented by Scottish people who want to celebrate Scottish winners.

Something else that seems not to have been considered by UK Olympics, is that Scotland could be en-route to independence by 2024, since the government’s plan for the referendum is by the end of 2023. And if Yes wins, what exactly is the point in having Scots described as UK players and athletes in the following year?

To be honest and frank, I prefer local sport, games and exercise which provide fun, health and fitness and which I think are a more appropriate way to use non-winning Lottery payments.

With the financial disasters and soaring prices happening to poorest people now because of Brexit, I also feel the Lottery funding should be redirected to new, vital charities for the public and community, not the Olympics.

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