by RAY FLEMING

THE exhilarating sight of lots of British athletes winning gold and other medals at the Beijing Olympics has been just the boost the nation needed in a summer of discontent with the weather and the growing struggle to make ends meet. Congratulations are due to all those who have already stood on the winners' podium and others who may yet do so as the Games proceed. Those of us separated from the home country have been able to share in the sense of pride through the association of several of the winning athletes with the Balearics for their training.

It is clear that these great results have not “just happened”. They are the consequence of the substantial sums of money that have been put into athletics since they began to be available from the Lottery in the mid-1990s. A substantial part of UK Sports' funding goes to athletes identified as having a realistic chance of a medal at the next Games. Thus the double-gold swimmer Rebecca Adlington receives about 12'000 pounds a year - not a fortune but enough with other income to enable her to concentrate on her training full-time. At the same time there has been heavy investment in coaches and support teams. One observer at the Olympic Velodrome said that the British cycling team pit put him in mind of the commitment and efficiency of Formula One pits. The cycling team has received about five million pounds this year - money well spent it seems.

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