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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gloomy British Lament Dismal Games Showing

LONDON -- Surpassed by most of its larger and smaller European neighbors, Britain is heading for its worst Olympics in 40 years with government under-funding being blamed.


The headline across the back page of Wednesday's Evening Standard said it all, "Why are we so useless?"


Inside,`the paper ran a nostalgic photo layout of former British gold medalists, including Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddle -- 'Chariots of Fire' heroes in 1924 in Paris.


"Disappointment has turned to gloom, and gloom to doom as Britain's Olympic aspirations have been reduced to ashes in Atlanta,'' the paper wrote.


Britain had only one gold medal through Wednesday -- Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent won in coxless pairs -- while France had 13, Italy 11 and Germany 10. Even much smaller countries have done better -- Ireland and Switzerland had won three each and Belgium two.


Overall, the nine medals (three silver and five bronze) is the lowest total since Britons won 11 in 1952 in Helsinki, Finland. They won 20 four years ago in Barcelona and 24 in Seoul in 1988.


Worst yet, Britain is likely to return home without a gold in track and field -- the showpiece of the Olympics.


Britain hit the depths on the track when defending Olympic 100-meter champion Linford Christie made two false starts in the final, was disqualified and then protested and refused to leave the track. He has since failed to advance into the 200-meter final, as well.


A promised meeting after the Olympics between British Sports Minister Iain Sproat and Dick Palmer, head of the British Olympic Association, is being labeled as an "inquest.''


"I knew Atlanta was going to be tough,'' said Palmer, speaking from Atlanta. "But this has been very disappointing and frustrating.


"Other countries focus on their elite athletes. We do not,'' he added. "Unless the government provides more cash for the top coaches to work with our sportsmen and women, we will continue to fall further behind.''


Palmer also spoke directly to Prime Minister John Major.


"I have a message for John Major but I think these games have told him what it is. We need money,'' Palmer said.


Palmer said about $620 million were available to finance sports, but he called the financing structure haphazard.


He also suggested a government plan called "Raising the Game'' announced last year by Major to push sports in schools and develop a sports academy came too late.


Heritage Secretary Virginia Bottomley said Wednesday she was ready to listen to new plans for funding sports, but said the government was reluctant to get directly involved.


"We know that some of these countries concentrate so much on sports in order to prove that they are better than other countries,'' Sproat said Wednesday. "We don't want to go down that route.''


"There are a lot of lessons to be learnt from what we have seen in Georgia over these two weeks,'' he added.