LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Gordon Brown hailed a successful weekend for the country’s athletes at the Beijing Olympics on Sunday after the team won eight gold medals, its best performance for decades.
Powerful displays by British cyclists, rowers, sailors and swimmers have propelled Team GB to third so far in the Beijing medals table, surprising Britons used to seeing their sports teams disappoint.
The British team has already won more gold medals than it did at the 2004 Athens Olympics and equalled the 11 gold medals achieved at the 2000 Sydney games, its best gold medal haul of recent years.
At the Atlanta Games in 1996, Britain won just one gold medal.
“I want to send my congratulations to Team GB on this golden weekend for British sport. Eight gold medals and seventeen medals in total in one weekend is a superb and unprecedented achievement,” Brown said in a statement.
“The whole country has been watching and has been thrilled by Team GB. We are immensely proud of what they have achieved so far, and inspired by their performance.”
“Our Olympians’ talent and dedication represent the very best of Britain and we look forward to another great week of British sporting success,” he said.
British officials said that Saturday, when British athletes won four golds, was the country’s best Olympic medal haul in a single day in a century. They won another four golds on Sunday.
Britain is sharply stepping up funding for its elite athletes as it prepares to host the 2012 Olympics, where it aims to finish fourth in the medals table.
Sports minister Andy Burnham said he wanted the Beijing Olympics to change the place of sport in British society by encouraging people to take more exercise and by helping top athletes win more.
“The appetite for sport in this country we always know has been unprecedented. We’ve got to match that level of interest with investment, with facilities, with new opportunities for people,” he told Sky News.
Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by