Letter from Qingdao- Counting the Metal

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Paul Goodison rounds the first mark ahead of Rasmus Myrgren (SWE) after Goodison match raced his nearest rival off the Medal race course in the Mens Laser class 2008 Olympics

Greetings from Qingdao, on this the 11th day of the 2008 Sailing Olympics.

With seven of the Medal races now completed, the 2008 Olympics is just two days away from conclusion.

Already the medal table counting has begun. Olympic program mandarins strut the Olympic environs comparing medals won against promises made to funder's - and evaluating whether or not they have met their promised quota.

The Athens medal equation of 33 medals won by 20 countries looks unlikely to be repeated at Qingdao. The reason being that the British Powerhouse has been joined by Australia, with a number of others likely to win multiple medals.

There is no doubt that the Olympics have entered a new professional era, with funded and salaried sailors becoming the norm, if success is to be semi-guaranteed.

The difference between an Olympic and and an America's Cup campaign has also become very blurred, and at the Australian and British level, there is no real difference. But significantly neither was represented at the last America's Cup, and neither suffer from the double vision that such a commitment brings to a nation trying to do both events.

Neither do the Olympic accountants see the anguish and circumstance behind the medal counts. A competition decision can have a huge effect on a competitor's end result, and on a medal tally, but is invisible in a spreadsheet.

Two examples spring to mind, the first being the organisers ability to only run one race on Course C on a day when there was good wind - swinging the balance in favour of those who had performed well in the light airs, and removing the opportunity for catchup for those who had not.

The other occurred today when the second placed competitor in the Laser class was match raced off the course in the Medal race - losing all chance of the silver and finishing sixth.

While this is always a risk under the Medal Race format, in Qingdao it is easy to do. Just start on starboard, and pin your rival so they can't tack. Then take them out into the tide (usually running at a couple of knots), while the rest of the fleet goes for the less tide zone along side the seawall - and it's all over Red Rover.

The budget for the Australian Olympic campaign is believed to be in excess of $40million, the GBR program a big jump on that. The New Zealand funding is about $6million and many other countries run on much more modest budgets than that.

Budgets of $40million to $60million bear comparison with an America's Cup campaign - variously put at about $100million.

However that is price of guaranteed success. The Australian Olympic program will be their second highest medal earner, and similarly with the British program.

Good Sailing!

Richard Gladwell