Team GB chief expects Olympic success but warns of a bumpy ride

The head of Team GB at the Tokyo Olympics has warned everyone back home to buckle up for a bumpy ride – but has insisted that Britain will come out the other end by celebrating a successful campaign.

Mark England, Team GB’s chef de mission, conceded that the build up to Games had been tricky to navigate, with a number of athletes either testing positive for Covid or having to self-isolate, including six British track and field stars. But when asked for his message to the nation he struck an optimistic but realistic note.

“My message is that Team GB has almost 800 athletes and support staff in the country,” he said. “The athletes are fit, well and healthy. No one in Team GB has tested positive, so there should be huge confidence in our Covid mitigating measures. We want everyone back home to buckle up. It won’t be an easy ride but it’ll be exciting and fun and there’ll be some memories I’m sure will live long.

“I’d be pretty confident in 19 days’ time we’ll be celebrating a very successful campaign for Team GB.”

England would not be drawn on a medal target, but he insisted his athletes would put a smile on the nation’s face after a difficult 18 months because of the pandemic.

“Many people back home have lost their lives, many people have had their livelihoods changed – now are we maturely representing the hopes and the aspirations of millions and millions of people back home,” he said. “I don’t know what the medal outcome is going to be, but what I would say is that this is a top team. You go across every single athlete, every single team, every single sport, every single discipline, and you know, we can medal in all of those.”

England also agreed that it was important that Team GB diversified into different sports, rather than just a handful of so-called posh ones, and won medals that reflected the country as a whole.

“I think what we’ll see across this particular Games is a move away from the narrow focus of performance delivery,” he said. “Is it important? 100% it’s important. I want this team to be representative and to leave a legacy of inspiring kids.

“Through Sky Brown, for instance, there is an opportunity for those kids to see that if they try, day in, day out on graffiti ridden skateboard parks there’s a place in the Olympics for them. And whether it is BMX riders, or the hundreds of thousands of people who take to the bikes and the trails on the weekend, there’s a place in the Olympics and an association with the Olympics for them. I’ve got every confidence that will happen.”

England also revealed that there would be a homecoming event for Team GB at Wembley Arena on Sunday 15 August – with a national lottery ballot to win tickets for the public. Acts will include Rag ‘n Bone Man, Bastille, Griff and Laura Mvula – plus all the athletes.

The BOA said the event was being staged as it was the only way they could get the athletes together for a celebration. At these Games, the 11,000 competitors are required to fly out within 48 hours of the completion of their final event, so the majority will not be in Tokyo by the time of closing ceremony.

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