After investing heavily, the UK has proved a medal superpower two Olympic Games in a row, chalking up 3rd place overall in Rio. Swiss broadcaster RTS (SFR) sets out how much Switzerland has spent on its athletes. Here is how the two nations compare.
The Independent reports that the UK invested GBP 274 million, funneled from national lottery takings, across all Olympic sports in the four years leading to the Rio Olympics. That equates to spending of around GBP 4.1 million per medal – Britain won 67 medals in Rio.
According to RTS, lottery funding for elite sport in Switzerland for the four years from 2012 to 2015, totaled around CHF 105 million (GBP 81 million). Switzerland’s snow and mountains require that 35% of this be allocated to winter sports, so a comparable summer Olympics figure is CHF 68 million (GBP 52 million).
Putting these numbers together, British medals cost on average 55% of the CHF 9.7 million (GBP 7.4 million), average cost of each of Switzerland’s 7 medals.
The UK has a strategy that channels National Lottery money only into sports which show they can deliver Olympic medals. Switzerland’s spending appears to be broader. In an analysis showing the relationship between spending and Olympic performance, RTS highlights some notable disparities between investment and results.
Swiss canoeing and rowing performed well but received relatively little funding. Gymnastics, athletics and volley ball on the other hand received comparatively more funding but delivered fewer medals. Sports including cycling, sailing, shooting, handball, swimming, fencing, tennis and triathlons were all somewhere in the middle.
The Independent mentions the controversy associated with the British approach. Despite big spending on elite sport, participation in sport in the UK remains lower than it did when London hosted the Olympics in 2012.
Statistics on sports participation in the UK show that most Brits don’t do any. Sports England estimates that 57% of British adults did not play sport between March 2015 and April 2016. Similar Swiss data, from the Federal Office of Sport show that 74% of those aged between 15 and 74 were getting occasional or regular exercise in 2014.
There appears to be no obvious connection between the success of elite athletes and participation in sport. The feel-good factor of seeing your nation win is great, but what is it worth and what should it deliver?
Olympic athletes cost millions every year – RTS (in French) – Take a 5 minute French test now
How many millions each Olympic medal has really cost Britain – the Independent (in English)