By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - John Major was a face in the crowd at the Olympic velodrome as Chris Hoy seized a sixth career gold but the sport-loving former prime minister also played a part in Britain's biggest medal haul in more than a century.
It was under his administration, as British Olympic Association chairman and former Sports Minister Colin Moynihan reminded reporters on Wednesday, that the National Lottery came into being in late 1994.
While the privately-operated and state-franchised lottery has its critics, many of them opposed to gambling, the distribution fund administered by the government has given significant sums to sport with Olympic performance in mind.
In Atlanta in 1996, Britain won just one gold medal. In Beijing four years ago they won 19. So far in London, the tally stands at 22 golds and 48 medals - the best performance since the first London Games in 1908.
"You cannot unravel in terms of performance all the different elements that when brought together create a medal performance," said Moynihan, with the country basking in a golden glow.
"But what you can say about the funding that John Major and the lottery has delivered is that it has provided a platform for athletes with outstanding talent to deliver personal bests.
"It has enabled athletes to be surrounded by quality coaching and all the support staff that are necessary to assist that athlete, and in some sports the technology, to go through," said Moynihan.
Hoy's performance in the Keirin on Tuesday made him Britain's most decorated Olympian and the object of national adulation.
"The Hoy Wonder," declared Britain's best-selling Sun newspaper, with a front page headline of "United Blingdom" over 22 gold medals.
"Pride and Hoy" and "Tears of Hoy" were also popular.
Behind the Scot, however, is a story of dedicated organization and ruthless programming.
"Pick your winners and back them massively," was the advice on Wednesday from Team GB Chef de Mission Andy Hunt to next Games host Brazil, and Britain has done just that since the dark days of Atlanta.
There has been a 'no compromise' approach to the high-performance programme which investment based on past results and future potential. That effectively means that the better a sport does, the more money it gets.
That can be hard on some sports, but others such as cycling and rowing have become medal factories.
Cycling, road and track, has provided 12 of Britain's medals including eight of the golds - more titles than Brazil has medals so far. In Beijing, cycling also brought back eight golds and 14 medals.
Rowing has provided nine medals for Team GB, four of them gold, in their best Olympic performance. It is the only sport that Britain has won at least one gold medal in at every Games since 1984.
In 1996 there was a crisis in British Cycling, with the men winning just two bronze medals and the women nothing, and the board was replaced. They have not looked back.
The hiring of Dave Brailsford, once lottery funding started, was inspired and as performance director he oversaw success in Athens and Beijing before also overseeing Bradley Wiggins' Tour de France triumph this year as principal of Team Sky.
"Clearly the funding programme which has been able to be channeled to them over the years based on their success, has been enormously important," said Moynihan.
UK Sport, established in 1997, annually invests around 100 million pounds ($156.50 million) of public funds - from the lottery and government - in high performance sport while other money comes in from a Team 2012 initiative.
Coaches have been brought in from abroad, notably Australia, in a range of sports and athletes have the resources to train abroad at altitude and in warmer climates.
The arrival in 2006 of rugby World Cup winning manager Clive Woodward as the BOA's director of elite performance has been another key appointment.
Woodward has been meticulous in his approach to the job, introducing a new focus on core values and a strict dress code to reinforce the image of 'One Team GB'.
"Here at the BOA he has been critical in delivering the performance support to the athletes during Games time," said Moynihan.
"He has had to embed himself into programmes and working relationships with the governing bodies on the road to London 2012 but it's paid off...he and Dave Redding and his team are I think the finest high performance team in Olympic sport."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Nigel Hunt)