From selling tickets at work to becoming Great Britain’s joint-most successful Olympic athlete – if anyone understands the impact of National Lottery funding, it’s Sir Chris Hoy.
When Hoy’s name is mentioned, the image of a young boy selling National Lottery tickets at his local petrol station is not exactly what springs to mind, but rather one of a six-time Olympic champion bearing the flag for Great Britain at the London 2012 Games.
Hoy, who won six golds and one silver in track cycling at Olympic Games, was one of 25 past and present Great Britain stars who congregated at the Olympic Park in Stratford on Thursday 24 October to mark the 25-year anniversary of the National Lottery.
To date, more than 5,000 elite athletes have benefited from National Lottery funding, enabling them to have access to some of the best coaching, facilities and support staff in the world.
And Hoy is not one to downplay the impact of the funding he received, knowing he wouldn’t be where he is today if it were not for National Lottery’s support.
“Twenty-five years ago, I was selling National Lottery tickets in a petrol station, so it felt quite bizarre to be here celebrating all it’s done not just for me, but for UK Sport ever since,” said Hoy.
“Without the lottery funding, I would not be an Olympic champion.
“When I first started racing in World Championships in 1996, you had to sign a tracksuit out and give it back at the end of the and you borrowed wheels from the team to use on your bike.
“We only had two full-time members of staff in the whole of British cycling, now they employ hundreds of people. It’s hard to overstate the impact National Lottery has had on my career, and the success that British sport has enjoyed because of it over the last two decades.”
Before funding began for elite sport, Great Britain were ranked 36th in the medal table at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, but at Rio 2016 – after almost two decades of funding – Team GB finished second.
Since grants were first awarded to elite athletes in 1997, 864 medals have been won by Britons at Olympic and Paralympic Games.
For Hoy, the way funding has changed the sporting landscape of Great Britain is remarkable, and he’s longing for the trend to continue.
“It’s unthinkable now that we would come back from an Olympic Games with just one gold medal,” added Hoy.
“In Rio we were the second nation overall and if you look at our size, we’re punching well above our weight. It just shows if you invest in sport, and give people the right opportunities, facilities and environment, then they will succeed.
“We’ve just the athletes and the desire, but it just takes investment. You have it keep it going otherwise it will gradually drop off over time, and that’s what National Lottery has done.
“There’s very little than can unite a nation than sport can. It transcends so many things and it’s a wonderful thing to see a national come together to enjoy those days of competition and success.”
Since the National Lottery’s first draw took place on 19 November 1994, more than £40 billion has been raised for good causes in the areas of arts, sport, heritage, culture, film, charity and community.
Discover the positive impact playing the National Lottery has had on your community over the past 25 years by visiting www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the 25th hashtag: #NationalLottery25