August 19, 2012 8:19 pm

Brazil raises medals target for Rio

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Brazil will have to up its game at the Rio Olympics not just in terms of preparations for the event but also the performance of its athletes, amid plans by the country to more than double its medal count, according to its sports minister.

Aldo Rebelo said that while the country’s tally at the London games of 17 medals, three of them gold, was slightly better than the 15 expected, this would not suffice in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. “We need to put in a competitive performance in accordance with our status as host,” Mr Rebelo told the Financial Times in an interview. “We need to improve significantly (the medal count).”

In spite of having the world’s sixth-largest economy and fifth-largest population, Brazil finished 22nd in the medal table in London after investing far less than its peers in sports. Officials have previously said Brazil plans to more than triple its spending on its athletes to $700m, though it is unclear how the increased expenditure will be funded.

So far, the focus of attention on the country’s bid to host the 2016 Olympics in Rio has been on its infrastructure needs but Brazil’s performance in London has also reminded officials of the need to assuage national pride with a respectable medal tally.

Brazil’s three gold medals in London came in judo, women’s volleyball and gymnastics. But officials rued the lack of medals in athletics and swimming.

The country has set itself a target of finishing in the top 10 medal count in Rio, which officials calculate would require a record total medal haul of about 30.

Mr Rebelo said the government along with sports confederations and clubs had outlined a plan to improve performance including more sports scholarships, sending promising sports people overseas for training and promoting more women.

“We will bet on new sports in which Brazil does not have a tradition but in which it has potential,” he said.

Brazilian officials have remarked that most successful nations win medals in at least 13 different disciplines.

This means Brazil will have to increase the range of sports in which it wins medals by up to six or seven.

“Even though Brazil advanced in the medal count, various results in London have been marked as points needing attention,” the government said.

It said it was unsatisfactory that no female gymnast made it through to the finals and that there were no medals in athletics, equestrian events and women’s basketball. There was also concern that the women’s football team did not make it into the semifinals and there was only one medal in sailing and two in swimming.

Mr Rebelo did not say how much Brazil would invest in the performance of its athletes but officials have said the country would spend $700m in the lead-up to Rio, far more than it spent before London. The country funds its Olympics Committee with two per cent of the annual proceeds of its federal lotteries. Money from this source rose from R$230m ($114m) before the Beijing Olympics to R$331m before London.

Mr Rebelo did not say where the extra funding would come from. But Olympics officials say that even with $700m in investment in its athletes, Brazil would still fall short of the $1bn they estimate the “great powers” invest in Olympic sport.

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