Duncan Mackay

Just about the only downside of staging the Olympics is the number-crunchers and sporting know-nothings - particularly the former - who start butting in where they are neither wanted or needed. And my very particular gripe this week is their notion that there simply has to be a return – ie medals –  for any monies spent by UK Sport and other agencies.
Anything less than a podium is to be deemed a failure and a “debit” in the ledger. Money "wasted" and the subject of an investigation by highly paid officials, it should be added, who get well compensated for such for their labours. 
Give me strength. What complete and utter twaddle. Any sportsman, at whatever level, will confirm that money can never guarantee success. It can ease the way a little but no more.
It was in this frame of mind that I read a few carping comments recently about Great Britain’s embryo basketball  team being eliminated at the pool stage of the European Championships in Poland earlier this month. Were they worth their £8.5 million grant? Is it worth supporting them through to 2012? Shouldn't other sports be getting more?

A couple of things first. As one of the few journos who got off his backside and trekked to Poland let me tell you that Great Britain’s narrow defeat against world champions Spain was one of the most electrifying and brave sporting performances I have seen anywhere on the planet this year.The crowd loved it and you would have been very proud.
Britain found themselves in a group consisting of the eventual winners Spain – runners up Serbia and the fourth placed team Slovenia. That’s the group of death by any criteria and bear in mind the European Championships is much stronger than the Olympics or World Championships because there are no wild-cards and token "area representatives. Britain were further handicapped by the unavailability of Luol Deng and Ben Gordon, illness and injury and their third NB player Pops Mensah Bonsu missed all the warm-up games to boot.

Now let me tell you something else. You could spend £85 million on Great Britain Basketball - in fact £850 million - in the next  three years and still not be able to "guarantee" an Olympic medal such is the strength worldwide of the second  most popular team game behind football. In fact Britain is the only sporting superpower never to really “get” basketball and you could argue that the money should have been invested long ago.
Sporting success, and especially success in skilled team games involving more than just pure tests of strength and speed, can never be simply bought. How many hundreds of millions have gone into England and English football since 1966 to no avail?

Is there any guarantee that Team Sky can conjure up a Tour de France winner? We wish Team Origin well but is there any certainty they will ever bring the America’s Cup back home? 

The money men at Adidas have poured scores of millions of pounds into the All Blacks over the last decade but they haven't yet got their hands on the Webb Ellis trophy.
Sometimes you just attempt things for the adventure, fun and simply the desire to progress a sport and Great Britain has a proud tradition second to none in the sporting world. Put away the bloody calculators and just enjoy the ride. Supporting projects such as the British basketball team is absolutely the reason I spend a fiver every Saturday on lottery tickets. This is the sporting odyssey I want to buy into and I offer a Churchillian salute the sporting politicians, free-loaders and armchair critics who strangely were not to be seen in Warsaw and then moan about wasted money. Excuse me! Those of us who donate our hard earned in the first place will be the judge of than thank you very much
Starting from scratch three years ago British basketball have already fought their way through Divisions B and A of the European Nations competition and taken their place at top table two years ahead of expectation.  An invitation to next year's World Championships is on the cards and momentum is building nicely. If they can continue to progress we will have a team to roar on at the O2 against the Dream Team in 2012 and suddenly it will all make sense. We won't win but you won't have a better night out or in front of the box in the entire Games.

Furthermore there is just a chance that basketball will retain its place in our sporting culture and they will go onto even bigger and better things in 2016. Nothing guaranteed of course - there are no guarantees in sport - but there is just a chance and I am more than happy to take a punt on that.

The multi-talented Brendan Gallagher writes for the Daily Telegraph, covering a variety of sports, including rugby union, cycling and basketball