Britain’s Olympic athletes, already hit by cost cuts last year, could face another round if the government changes hands.
Last December, as the recession started to dent the public purse, government funds to help UK athletes train for the 2012 London Olympics were cut back. And since then other budget-concious measures have crept into Olympic planning — boxers are having to cede ground to badminton players, for instance.
There were hopes that the cost-cutting was at an end. That’s because the Labor Party cannot make further changes to the budget within a four-year window, which includes the 2012 games. But that may change next year if the country’s ruling Labour party, battered by recent expense scandals, loses control of the government. A caveat in the funding contract allows changes should the government change. And Conservatives are widely expected to win a general election next year.
“If there is a change in government they could re-visit the funding allocation, but apart from that it is very unlikely to change in the run up to the London Olympics,” said Caroline Hale, communications manager at UK Sport, a government organization in charge of deploying the government’s funding to the games, told CNBC.com.
A spokesperson for the Conservative party told CNBC.com that they have no intention of following Labour’s lead, but political parties looking to win imminent elections have been known to shy away from unpopular policies.
“We have no plans to change the budget for the UK athletes, in fact with out National Lottery proposals it is likely that the funding for the elite athletes will actually rise,” Sue Beeby, press officer at the Conservative Party, told CNBC.com.
Still, the existing budget for the games remains a concern. The most recent cuts meant that UK Sport was still £50 million short of its original funding ambitions for 2012. And many Olympic sports that were deemed less likely to yield medals have seen their funding reduced to a “basic level” since the cuts.
Blow to Boxing
Budget concerns also threatened to deliver a blow to the Olympic boxing teams competing in the 2012 games.
The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (Locog) plans to move the boxing matches to Wembley Arena, which could entail a 3-hour commute for the athletes, officials from the International Boxing Association told the BBC.
The matches were originally going to be held at London’s ExCel centre, but this could be taken over by badminton and rhythmic gymnastics, the BBC said.
The move is designed to save costs as the committee is looking to scrap plans for a 6,000-seat venue called the North Greenwich Arena 2, which would have held the events.