July 04, 2012 00:00 By Lerpong Amsa-ngaim
The government has announced a Bt67-million war chest to prepare 37 athletes from 16 sports for the London Olympics, with taekwondo, boxing and weightlifting seen as Thailand's top medal prospects.
Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT) deputy governor Montri Chaipun says the budget is split into four categories: Bt5 million to send athletes to qualifying events, Bt34 million for camps and training, Bt20 million to send athletes to international events and Bt8 million for miscellaneous expenses.
The budget has been increased slightly since the 2008 Beijing Olympics where Bt60 million was spent on 51 athletes from 12 disciplines. In Beijing the country won two gold medals, one in weightlifting and the other in boxing, and a silver in taekwondo.
“Our expectations are focused on sports that yielded Thailand medals in past Olympics. But certain disciplines, such as shooting, might spring surprises,’’ said Montri, who heads the commission in charge of Thai athletes’ preparation.
The Olympics are set to run from July 27 to August 12, but the first delegation of Thai officials will travel to England on July 12 to set up a training camp in Manchester.
“The time difference is crucial. We are six hours ahead of London … the sooner our athletes adjust to the new environment, the more confident they’ll be,’’ said Montri.
On doping concerns, Thai chief of mission Thana Chaiprasith said the sports associations and athletes had been properly briefed, with athletes also subject to regular doping tests.
“We have been very watchful on this issue, so there should not be any cases [of doping] in the Thai delegation,’’ said Thana who has been in the post since the Athens Games of 2004.
The first group of Thai athletes will leave for London on July 23 with the majority following on July 25. Thailand have won at least one gold medal at every Olympics since the 1996 Games in Atlanta.