London 2012: Organizers Urge British Media, Public to Remain Calm Amid Gold Medal Drought
LONDON – British Olympic officials have urged the public and the media here to remain patient and not to panic about the lack of gold medals for the home team so far.
As the London 2012 Olympics' fifth day five dawned, some of the U.K. tabloids screamed for a gold medal, and the executives responsible for bankrolling British Olympic sport, UK Sport, admitted they are considering reducing by 10 their maximum medal target of 70.
The growing medal panic stems from the fact that at the same stage during the Beijing Games, road cyclist Nicole Cooke and swimmer Rebecca Adlington had won two surprise golds, building the momentum that would result in 19 in total.
That led the Sun tabloid, part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., to scream "Wanted: Gold Medal" on its front page. Papers also carried a medals table that put Great Britain behind Lithuania and Georgia.
CNN host Piers Morgan tweeted early Wednesday: Any danger of someone, anyone, from TeamGB winning a gold medal at our own Olympics?"
British Olympic Association chairman Lord Moynihan told The Guardian though that he was "comfortable with where we are, absolutely. We need to be patient and we'll see that the medals and gold medals will follow."
Now all eyes are on the British rowing teams Wednesday and the current golden boy of British cycling, Bradley Wiggins, who just last week became the first British man ever to win the Tour de France.
Wiggins comes into the time trial afternoon race having won the time trials during the Tour de France, and TV viewership for the BBC is expected to benefit as British eyes will be watching to see if he can tear up the course outside London.
But it could be all good news for the BBC with more and more nervous Brits expected to tune in to see if Team GB can strike gold, industry observers said.
The BBC on Wednesday will be hoping for big audiences for the rowers who start around lunchtime in the U.K. - before Wiggins pedals off in the afternoon.
"When you look at the rowing finals, the cyclists and the sailors, we'll begin to have that core delivery of success," said Moynihan. "We're beginning to see, as we forecast, more medals in more sports – we delivered on the gymnastics."
The British media is pointing to the fact that the sports, in which Team GB has come to the fore in since the 2004 Games -- track cycling, rowing and sailing – have yet to start in earnest.
Also, the British team arrived at the Games being staged on home turf knowing that public expectations have soared since Beijing's medal bonanza four years ago.
Liz Nicholl, the CEO of the funding agency that pumped £312 million ($489.6 million) into British sport over the past four years, told The Guardian it was "early days".
She said she was "not panicking at all yet" and that the target of realizing 48 medals – beating the Beijing total – is still very much in sight. However, the top end of their target range, of 40 to 70 medals, has been reduced to about 60. "Momentum is significant. Medals provide momentum. Gold medals provide that extra boost," said Nicholl.
Beating the haul of 19 golds in the previous Games and equaling the fourth place on the medal roster is certainly an increasing challenge. But Adlington still has her stronger event to come later in the week, and Keri-Anne Payne is favourite to win gold in the open water swimming.
Georg Szalai in London contributed to this report.