No expense spared for Team GB as they prepare for Rio 2016
By Ben Ransom
Last Updated: 27/03/16 3:34pm
Ben Ransom gets a behind-the-scenes look at the facilities that the British Olympic Association hope will be the launch-pad to another record-breaking medal haul.
Be prepared or prepare to fail.
It's an old cliché but it's one that Team GB are living by as they get ready for Rio 2016.
The plans are certainly impressive, with the British Olympic Association (BOA) putting more money than ever before into the preparation for an overseas Games. £1.6m of lottery funding has been set aside by UK Sport to fund the biggest pre-Games training camp a British team has ever had. In fact they believe it's the biggest and most extensive training camp of any of the other nations competing in Rio. Lofty ambitions indeed.
Two weeks before the opening ceremony, British athletes will begin boarding flights to Brazil, but having landed at the host city of Rio de Janeiro they'll jump straight onto another plane and fly 45 minutes north into the mountains.
Belo Horizonte is a city that conjures up painful sporting memories for those who follow England, and in particular English football. Not only was it the scene of one of their most humiliating ever World Cup results in 1950 when they were beaten by a team of amateurs from the USA, the return 64 years later saw Roy Hodgson's England crash out of the 2014 competition after a lacklustre goalless draw with Costa Rica.
Thankfully it's a unified British team that will be touching down later this summer and when they arrive they'll be greeted by the best training facilities found anywhere in Brazil. The athletics track has the exact same surface as the Olympic Stadium in Rio, while Belo Horizonte is also home to Brazil's only other indoor 50-metre swimming pool to meet international standards.
Each and every competing sport will enjoy a similar level of meticulous preparation, with a fleet of shipping containers crossing the Atlantic right now bringing with them everything from canoe slalom start gates to full-size Olympic boxing rings. Even the hotel rooms here will get the Team GB treatment to make sure athletes feel right at home - with patriotic posters and Union Flag cushions on the sofas.
Paul Ford is the Head of pre-Games training and explained to Sky Sports News HQ why they're going to all of the trouble.
"Technical training is the first most important thing and after that we're then looking at how we can best acclimatise," Ford said.
"We're only 45 minutes flight away from Rio so it's got exactly the same climate, which allows the athletes to go through the process of that four-hour time zone shift and get used to being inside Brazil before they go into the village and do their competition.
"The other key part of it is bringing together Team GB because they might come here as British Judo or the British fencing team, but they leave here as part of Team GB ready to take on the world."
In 2010 the BOA would've been forgiven for putting everything into making sure London 2012 lived up to all the hype. However, in addition to focusing on their own backyard, a delegation was also more than 5,000 miles away visiting the training venues here in Belo Horizonte. To put it into some perspective, recent media reports in Brazil questioned why the home nation had not secured the facilities in Belo instead to give themselves the best chance of success this summer.
Brazil's loss is Britain's gain and rather than looking at it as an expensive gamble, Team GB are confident the investment of time and money will pave the way for their most successful ever overseas Games. To do that they have to get a total of 48 medals, one more than they achieved in Beijing 2008.
But having spent three days travelling around with the BOA delegation there's no sense of settling for that figure. Instead there's optimism that British performances in Rio could even push their greatest ever Olympic medal haul - when Team GB landed a total of 65 medals, including 29 golds in London.
As was the case in the build-up to London 2012 there are also negative headlines. Brazil is a country facing huge political and social problems, as well as a battle with the well-publicised Zika virus. Team GB want to leave their own human legacy in their home from home.
Much of the training equipment being brought out and paid for by UK Sport will then be donated to local sports clubs in Belo Horizonte. And who knows, it might even be the small act of trans-Atlantic kindness that allows a young Brazilian athlete to fulfil their dream of going for gold in Tokyo 2020.
That truly would be a legacy of Olympic proportions.