Well that\’s £600 million we can save

Labour wisely avoided crowing too directly over Olympic golds, for fear of undermining GB athletes\’ sheer grit. But Britain was 36th in the medal tables in Atlanta in 1996 – and after Labour\’s £600m investment came fourth in Beijing, and now third.

Yes, it\’s lovely that \”we\” got lots of medals. But it ain\’t the business of government to pay for them.

Adults should be paying for their own hobbies.

23 thoughts on “Well that\’s £600 million we can save”

  1. I liked Tim Blair’s recent post on Olympic funding:

    —————
    After the first few days of competition, when we’d won fewer gold medals than New Zealand, you felt like hiding your wallet every time you walked past a gym. “Money is the difference between silver and gold,” said Kevan Gosper, Australia’s senior representative on the International Olympic Committee, sparking a Montreal-level debate about how much more public cash should be invested in swimming and such.

    To me, Gosper’s words seem a good argument to abandon Olympic competition entirely. If it’s a just a spending race, let’s send a note to IOC president Jacques Rogge informing him that we’ve got priorities other than participating in a quadrennial festival of socialised nationalism.

  2. “Investment”

    Golly, I’m waiting for the return on this investment. What’s that you say? We’ve spent £10bn and it’s been a massive anti-stimulus to the economy?

  3. If a party puts “invest in elite sports” in their manifesto and people vote for that manifesto then it is a perfectly reasonable thing for a government to spend tax payers money on (or distribute Lottery money).

    Surely that’s democracy ?

    Out of interest, Tim, what would you spend the Lottery billions on ? Surely sport, theatre, music, saving old buildings, buying Churchill’s papers etc are all someone’s hobby ?

    Tim adds:

    1) I wouldn’t have a lottery. It’s a regressive tax on stupidity.

    2) Pay down the national debt.

  4. When I buy a lottery ticket I treat it as a small donation to a basket of sports, culture and hobby funding.

  5. That portion of the funding that came out of lottery funding is fair enough (just about). People can simply not do the lottery if they aren’t happy with either the fact that the government gets a slice, or with the the specifics of what it is spent on. That portion that has come out of general revenues, it is perfectly proper that people complain about.

    Shinsei67, the problem with that logic is it would mean that no one could every complain about any spending decisions that governments make just so long as it was in the manifesto. It also ignores the fact that people elect parties on the totality of their manifesto, not on individual policies. It also further assumes that a democratic decision is automatically right becuase it was arrived at democratically. It doesn’t take much imagination (or knowledge of history) to find plenty of examples of democratic decisions which are not perfectly reasonable. (Eg Milton Friedman’s observation that 51% of people voting to shoot the other 49% is democracy)

  6. “1) I wouldn’t have a lottery. It’s a regressive tax on stupidity.”

    Would you ban private lotteries? I hardly see how a lottery where some of the profit goes to arts’n’sports is worse than one where it doesn’t.

    Lotteries are not taxes.

  7. Long time reader, first time commenter.

    I think there is a danger to be a little bit too regimented in the thinking about this sort of “investment”. Yes, £600 million is a lot of money and if you view the “returns” from that investment purely in terms of how many medals we have won then it is hard to see a direct financial benefit from that.

    But of course there will be more intangible benefits both financial and otherwise in for example children getting more interested in sport than they would have done (which can never really be properly measured).

  8. Hey Mark, like your blog, it’s in my blog reader.

    One problem with the justification used above is it is used not just for the 600 million (near enough £10 per person in the UK) of spending under discussion here. The same justification of intangible benefits is used for billions of of pounds of spending.

    Intangible too often corresponds to unprovable. Not only do we not know if the supposed benefits mentioned will actually even accrue, but we don’t even know if the benefits exceed the costs. In this case we don’t know how many children will get interested in sport, we don’t know how interested they will be, and even if we did know both these things, we still wouldn’t know if the £600 million could have been used to better effect elsewhere.

  9. “I wouldn’t have a lottery. It’s a regressive tax on stupidity.”

    And that is probably the only thing that Tim and Caroline Lucas agree on.

    Indeed it is a “tax on stupidity” or rather a “tax on hope over experience and statistical common sense”.

    However I think most people (like Matthew L) regard it as a harmless flutter, adds a frisson to their week, and it (28%) goes to a wide range of good causes.

    And I think this week of all weeks people like to think their Lottery flutters have funded Jess and Mo’s Gold Medals rather than just paying down the National Debt.

  10. Mark Thompson,

    But of course there will be more intangible benefits both financial and otherwise in for example children getting more interested in sport than they would have done (which can never really be properly measured).

    Participation in sport is measured in
    Sport England’s Participation Survey, and participation in rowing, despite winning 2 gold medals, fell from 2008 to 2011.

  11. @Tim. But how statistically significant is that? What other confounding variables were there? Etc. etc. It’s easy to pick out two things and imply causation, it’s far harder to actually prove it.

  12. Shinsei67,

    Actually, lottery funding doesn’t make that much difference to Mo Farah and Jess Ennis because they’re professionals. They do competitions that pay them and get endorsement deals from clothing and energy drink companies. If you cut funding, you’d probably still win 1 or 2 golds in athletics (rather than 4).

    It’s sports like pentathlon and track cycling that make the big difference. There’s really no money from spectators or endorsements, so if you throw lottery money at them, you have a full-time athlete with good facilities going up against part-timers without, which means you’re going to win something.

  13. The National Lottery offers better odds of a £1m win than Premium Bonds. You are theoretically better to invest your money in high-yielding shares, and blow the divi’s on Lottery tickets.

  14. Mark,

    @Tim. But how statistically significant is that? What other confounding variables were there? Etc. etc. It’s easy to pick out two things and imply causation, it’s far harder to actually prove it.

    OK, it fell from 0.11% of the population to 0.08% of the population. So, yes, perhaps a rounding error. Using only the statistics, I’d say that they have either fallen, have stayed flat, or haven’t risen much.

    Now, I’m willing to accept that perhaps there were mitigating factors, and as you’re the person who thinks this may be a good idea, perhaps you can tell me what they are?

  15. @Tim I don’t know of course. My point is that just because you cannot definitively prove something yields a “return” does not always mean it should be dismissed. For things like this it may well come down to a judgement call. How much for example is it worth for the national mood lift of the last two weeks and the sense of pride and achievement worth? Incalculable but surely worth a fair bit?

  16. How much for example is it worth for the national mood lift of the last two weeks and the sense of pride and achievement worth? Incalculable but surely worth a fair bit?

    I don’t know. I don’t even know that this “national pride” thing isn’t mostly a media/political creation. I’m seeing far less visible support (flags on cars/t-shirts) than during the football compeitions.

  17. “Tim adds:

    1) I wouldn’t have a lottery. It’s a regressive tax on stupidity.”
    I thought that if you tax something you get less of it.
    Therefore the lottery is good.

    (I am not 100% serious).

  18. Why is it always presumed encouraging kids to do sport is a positive? Seriously.
    Human body’s evolved for a range of activities. Sport, by its nature takes a set of those activities & pushes them to the limit. Hence the sports pages are, to a large extent, devoted to which sportsman is subject to which injury. The higher the level of achievement the more the injuries to the point where, with some sports, the active career of the participants doesn’t extend much past the twenties before the accumulated damage knocks them out of the game. Even at the purely recreational level it’s common for enthusiasts to suffer long term partial or major disabilities.
    What has a general level of fitness (presumably desirable) have to do with sport which in many cases will reduce it?

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