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Spain, football and the Olympics medal tally

Napoleon said that to win in war it took three things: money, money and more money. In sport, which is a continuation of war through other means, you also win with these three things, so it is normal that every four years the USA tops the medal table. Spain is wonderful at football, particularly at club level due to the revenue created. In Olympic sports, less so. Cardenal and Blanco agree that our performance (fourteenth in the medal table) was good, however Spain stand as the eleventh largest economy in the world. And yet, they are right.

Carolina Marín won gold in badminton. One of the great stories of Rio.

Football in a different league

They are right because even though we are the eleventh richest economy, our investment in the Olympic team is not. In the most recent Olympic cycle, the state invested 177 million euros which was further supported by 311 million through private sponsorships. To compare, Spain has funded four years of preparation for all Olympic events to an amount equivalent to two-thirds of the budget of Real Madrid or Barcelona, for one season. It’s a question of national preference. Spain makes sacrifices for football that it does not for anything else. From time immemorial, all sports have looked at this suspiciously.

Barcelona's Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi are part of the football money-making machine.

Alternative resources

Blanco has complained a lot about government cuts to federations, with support from UCAM aimed at alleviating this, and who provided scholarships to 55 of our 306 Olympians. Cardinal, meanwhile, eased the effects of the cuts by getting into the footballing TV rights and receiving a “solidarity tax” of 1% of the total. It doesn’t seem like much, but it is certainly not trivial. For the upcoming Olympic cycle this alone will pull in more than 60 million euros. But at this time, the plan of the Spanish Olympic Sports Association’s (ADO) to have their main source of finance through sponsorships is in danger. All things told, it’s tough to be a Spanish Olympian. They are swimming against the current. And with this in mind, fourteenth isn’t bad.

Miguel Cardenal congratulates the president of the canoeing federation, Juan Jose Roman Mangas, for their four medals in Rio.