Team GB is targeting between 45 and 70 medals at the Tokyo Olympics after confirming it will send more women than men to a Games for the first time.
In a notable change in emphasis, however, the UK Sport chief executive, Sally Munday, said the organisation would be taking a more “holistic approach” to evaluating success at the Olympics and Paralympics, rather than focusing solely on the podium.
“Our intelligence tells us that our athletes will have the potential to win between 45 and 70 medals at the Olympics, and we believe we’re on course to surpass the 51 of Beijing in 2008,” she said. “If all goes very well, we could get close to what we collected in Rio five years ago, which was 67.”
That figure is lower than the medal target of 54-92 that UK Sport set in 2018, but Munday stressed the definition of success had now broadened to include measures such as inspiring moments from female athletes across multiple sports.
“Success in Tokyo is about three things. The first is enabling our athletes who have exceptional potential to achieve their dreams and ambitions. Secondly, is every one of our athletes reaching Tokyo and coming home safely? And third it’s Britain’s athletes, once again, bringing us together and providing a source of real pride and happiness.”
Team GB’s squad of 201 female and 175 male athletes is the biggest for a non-home Olympics. It includes the cyclist Laura Kenny, the taekwondo player Jade Jones, the rower Helen Glover and the equestrian rider Charlotte Dujardin, who are all aiming to become the first British women to win gold medals at three Olympics.
“I am delighted that we will be taking more women than men to a summer Olympic Games,” the Team GB chef de mission, Mark England, said. “It is a first for Team GB in its 125-year history – 2021 is truly the year of the female Olympian.”
Meanwhile the British Olympic Association chief executive, Andy Anson, said it was right the Olympics should go ahead despite fans being absent from events in Tokyo.
“We have a lot of sadness and regret around that decision for the Japanese people in particular because it’s a massive thing to host an Olympic Games,” he said. “I find it very, very sad for them that they aren’t going to have the experiences we had at London in 2012.
“But the competition is going to be as intense as ever. That’s the main reason for it to go ahead and then it can be enjoyed by people all around the world.”
When asked whether it was about money, Anson said: “There are economic reasons. But I feel a bit frustrated when people say it’s about greed. It’s not about greed, it’s about something that funds the whole Olympic sporting ecosystem around the world in many different ways. That should be highly valued.”
Anson revealed 92% of the 1,000 British athletes and staff going to Tokyo have been double vaccinated, with around 20 of those travelling with Team GB not having any jab at all. Anson also confirmed measures would be in place to protect the mental health of athletes, who will have to quarantine and face severe restrictions on their movements.
“We have been putting in place mental health guidance for our own staff as well because it’s a tough environment for the team around Team GB. They’re very much confined to the village in a very hot country, in a very tight village – it’s tough for everyone. It’s definitely going to be a challenge, without a doubt.”