High-performance sport policy in the UK

An outline and critique 1

Authored by: Ian McDonald

Routledge Handbook of Sports Development

Print publication date:  December  2010
Online publication date:  December  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415479967
eBook ISBN: 9780203885581
Adobe ISBN: 9781134019717


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At the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996, Great Britain won just one gold and came a lowly thirty-sixth in the medal table. Fast forward three Olympic Games to Beijing in 2008. Here, ‘Team GB’ (as it had now become) won 41 medals including 19 gold and came fourth in the medal table! What explains this dramatic (re-)emergence of Great Britain as an Olympic nation? Even accounting for the fact that Atlanta was an unusually poor Olympics for Great Britain, the improvement in Athens and Beijing is dramatic. It certainly did not happen by accident or by luck. On the contrary, it was the result of the development and systematic application of a comprehensive high-performance sport policy underpinned by a massive investment of financial resources that was unprecedented in the history of sports policy in the UK. This prompts the question as to why such importance is now being given in the UK to high-performance sport, and what are the implications that ought to concern students and scholars of sports politics and policy.

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