We didn’t know if it would even take place, but the sun has set on a Tokyo Olympics that has thrilled us from day one. It was an unusual Games, with barely any fans in attendance, providing an unusual backdrop for the world’s finest athletes to perform, but for Team GB, it was another incredibly successful Olympics.
They ended the Tokyo Games with exactly the same number of medals (65) as they won in London 2012, albeit with seven fewer golds, but this massively exceeds the predicted target of 52. In a year where athletes all around the globe have struggled to train, the Brits did us all proud with some sensational performances.
Having won 67 medals in Rio to secure an astonishing second place finish in the medal table, and followed it up in Tokyo with another successful haul, Team GB may have reached a plateau when it comes to medal success. Even though the investment into British sport is increasing every Olympic cycle, it seems unlikely that we will ever be able to overhaul the big two in USA and China, even if GB edged out the Chinese in Rio courtesy of one more gold.
UK Sport spent a record £345m on Olympic sports in the build-up to Tokyo 2021, an increase from £274m on Rio 2016, so you can see why the athletes are bringing home the medals with this sustained level of investment. But that £69m increase didn’t actually lead to more gold medals and although elite level athletes come and go, it will be interesting to see how much success Great Britain and Northern Ireland have in Paris when £352m will be spent on this shortened Olympic cycle.
Given the size of the population, with just 66 million people living in the UK, this level of performance across several sports is remarkable. It wasn’t that long ago that this country would do well to come home from the Olympics with one gold, let alone 20. In Atlanta 1996, before John Major and the national lottery changed everything,
The last three Olympic Games have brought astonishing levels of excitement and success to these shores but given the difference in population and funding, it is difficult to see Great Britain ever catching table toppers USA, who won a dominant 113 medals in Tokyo.
However, this Olympic Games exceeded all expectations and that was without some of our track stars like Dina Asher-Smith and Katarina Johnson Thompson performing at their best, so there's hope for Paris. Also, the inspirational effect of this cycle of success cannot be underestimated.
Adam Peaty watched on in 2012 before taking swimming seriously and now he is an inspiration to every young British swimmer. Then you have the new champions such as Bethany Shriever who won gold in BMX and now could inspire a whole new generation who did not know it was even possible to do their passion as a career. Sky Brown shone in the new sport of skateboarding and with more new sports, comes more opportunities for gold.
This is only a small island in the Atlantic, but it is competing with some of the biggest and most powerful nations, in the biggest sporting event on the planet. If 60-70 medals is the peak for Team GB, it is still an absolutely astonishing achievement. But with our new heroes, new sports, and this cycle of success that is now in full flow, who can stop us from collecting even more medals? Paris 2024 is only 1082 days away.