British Teams Seek Home Advantage to Boost Olympic Qualification

The British Olympic Team will stage 30 international sporting events in the coming months, counting on home advantage to get more athletes qualified for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

With tomorrow marking 500 days until the opening ceremony, U.K. Sport today said the events -- ranging from the European hockey championships in London to the world gymnastics championships in Glasgow -- will provide athletes with 85 individual and 10 team opportunities to qualify.

“It’s becoming more and more competitive to win a medal and to do well,” Simon Morton, the group’s director of major events and international relations, said in an interview at the Brazilian Embassy in London. “You’ve got to be the best in the world just to get to the games sometimes. Qualification is almost as important in some sports as the actual performance at the games itself.”

Home advantage may boost athlete performance by as much as 25 percent, according to Morton, citing a U.K. Sport study of European and world championships.

U.K. Sport, which spends about 100 million pounds ($149 million) of public funds a year in high-performance sport in Britain, will be spending 30 million pounds on its so-called Road to Rio strategy of hosting home events, Morton said.

A number of events were secured three years before the London 2012 Olympics, where Britain won a record 65 medals, including 29 gold, and finished third on the medals table behind the U.S. and China. The British Olympic squad is aiming for one more medal in Rio, a feat that no other host nation has achieved in modern times. Only the host nation gets automatic qualification for all events.

Ticket Sales

At a joint presentation with the Brazilian Ambassador to the U.K., Rodrigo Jaguaribe, U.K. Sport today announced some 900,000 tickets will go on sale to the events.

The Road to Rio strategy may boost attention for sports that don’t always get attention outside the games, according to Kate Richardson-Walsh, England and British field hockey captain.

“So many sports in this country vie for the attention of the media and this is a nice way to make sure Olympic sports are at the forefront of people’s minds for the whole of the Olympic cycle,” the 2012 bronze medalist said in an interview. “As a hockey player, I’m really behind it. The European championships are a massive tournament, but you perhaps wouldn’t know about them unless you were a hockey player, or knew someone that was.”

A supportive home crowd “make a massive difference,” British gymnast Rebecca Tunney said in an interview.

“It gives you that extra boost,” said Tunney, who at the age of 15 was the youngest member of the British Olympic squad in London.

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