Could you put the great into Team GB?

Could you be part of Team GB in Tokyo? Image credit:Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil

For sleep-deprived sofa sportsmen and women everywhere, it's been a blistering week of sporting action and we’re ready for more. Bring on your multi-platform Rio programming best BBC – we have snacks.

But spare a thought for the group who can’t kick back and enjoy the sea, sand, sun and samba just yet. For the athletes and those behind the scenes, the Olympic Games represent the culmination of years of hard work, planning, preparation and training. Then it could all be over in 57.13 seconds if you’re good at breaststroking. No need for performance anxiety when that sort of speed gets you a world record and a gold medal.

We can’t all be Olympians, but for every Adam Peaty, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Mo Farah, Bradley Wiggins or Katherine Grainger there’s a massive team behind them helping them to produce the spectacular performances we’re all hoping for.

So if you sink rather than swim in the pool, or would prefer a 26 mile drive to a marathon could you be one of the many behind Olympic success in Tokyo 2020? Read on to find out what you need to do to book your Tokyo ticket.

Equestrian events

The Team GB equestrian squad includes 15 riders and horses, coaching and support staff, veterinarians, farriers and physiotherapists for both the equine and human athletes.

The British team’s equine athletes flew from Stansted to the Games on a customised Boeing, supported by equine logistic and transport experts, flying grooms, a team of vets, and a generous luggage allowance.

To become a veterinary physiotherapist for equine athletes you’ll need either a degree in veterinary physiotherapy or to complete postgraduate training in veterinary physiotherapy. UWE and Liverpool both offer veterinary physiotherapy courses accredited by the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy. Harper Adams and Middlesex also offer PG courses in veterinary physiotherapy.


Rowing is one of Great Britain’s most successful sports in the modern Olympic era with 63 medals as of London 2012. So we know that the Team GB rowing team are good for a medal or two, despite tidal waves/choppy waters at Lagoa.

As well as what must be the highest proportion of postgraduates athletes representing GB, a doctor, sports scientist, performance analyst, physios, coaches and a mascot or two make up the team.

In the run-up to the Olympic Games, biomechanic and performance analysis by the rowing team’s ‘Team Science’ in Caversham provided support (using the data from instrumentation in the boats) to find any marginal gains that could make them faster in Rio.

To become a sports scientist you’ll usually have completed a degree in a related subject and specialise into a specific area of sports science with a postgraduate qualification. Leading universities in the area include Edinburgh, Loughborough, Bath, Exeter and Birmingham.


Team GB has enjoyed phenomenal success on the track in recent years, despite having to wear head gear that makes the team look like an invading alien force in a sci-fi film. But those technological and engineering advances are helping the cyclists to produce results thanks to innovative engineering, performance analysis and legs you could rest a grand piano on.

Engineering advancements have reduced aerodynamic drag, increasing the power output of the athletes, not only on the bike, but on the kit being worn by the riders. Out on the BMX track, BAE engineers have adapted drone technology to improve race performances.

Meanwhile, back on the sofa, we’re looking forward to seeing the fruits of the BAE Systems partnership with UK Sport in all its manifestations at Rio.

To take the academic route to becoming a chartered engineer (CEng) you’ll need an Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) accredited degree in engineering or technology and a masters or EngD (or an MEng).


Team GB’s four-strong taekwondo contingent are one of the two sports travelling with psychologists to Rio.

In a fast and furious sport, with such demands on mental toughness, psychologists play an important part in building a winning mentality and in the athletes’ preparation and mental strategies.

To become a sports psychologist, you must complete a British Psychological Society (BPS) degree (or accredited conversion course), an approved masters in sports and exercise psychology and two years of supervised practice.

Bangor, Brunel, UcLAN, Chichester, Loughborough, Northumbria, Portsmouth, Sheffield Hallam, Staffordshire, Ulster, UWE and Winchester all offer a BPS approved MSc in sports and exercise psychology.

Olympic infrastructure

Getting ready for the Games is an engineering and organisational feat of Olympian proportions in itself. The host city faces an unprecedented demand on infrastructure, energy and water, accommodation, public transport, security and finances.

In Rio, that challenge has been set against a background of economic turmoil and political unrest, a water crisis in a country dependent on hydro-electricity, and displacement of people in the areas where building has taken place. In such a difficult atmosphere, sustainability and legacy have been key concerns for Games engineers.

To transport 140,000 employees and volunteers (and 500,000 spectators) around the city, a high-speed link has been developed between the four venues in Rio being used in the Games; Deodora, Barra, Copcacabana and Maracana – site of the Olympic stadium. The High-Performance Transport Ring has taken existing train, metro and bus lines and expanded them with a view to a sustainable reduction in transport emissions after the Games and loosening the stranglehold of traffic on the city.

To avoid a case of ‘abandoned Olympic building’ syndrome, 16 of the venues being used already existed in Rio and nine are temporary structures erected for the Olympics and Paralympics. Temporary buildings will then be dismantled and reused elsewhere – the handball arena will be rebuilt into four schools, a gymnasium will become a sports school and the golf course will become Brazil’s first public golf facility.

Civil engineers usually take a degree in engineering or a masters in engineering. A number of universities offer Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) accredited postgraduate level MSc conversion courses for non-cognates moving into the field.

The environmental impact of the Games

Each Olympics takes its toll on the environment, in travel, energy, sanitation, food consumption and construction. But the spotlight on Brazil, the first South American host, has been particularly intense.

While the golf course may have encroached on the protected Marapendi nature reserve, it’s not been all bad news for the wildlife population. The local capybara have been seen out enjoying their new golf course.

Water pollution has been a long standing problem for Rio. The Guanabara Bay which plays host to the world's best sailors has high levels of pollution, with vessels removing debris that might impede the competition. A sixty-strong team were dedicated to removing 32 tonnes of dead fish from the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas where the rowing takes place in the run up to the Games.

And we’re still not sure what turned the diving pool such a beautiful pea green. Whether it was a brand marketer gone rogue or a build-up of algae in the heat only time or an environmental scientist will tell.

Environmental scientists who specialise in pollution and its environmental impact usually have an undergraduate degree as well as a postgraduate qualification. Top ranking UK universities for environmental sciences research include Oxford, Cambridge, Southampton, Bristol and Leeds.

Could you make Tokyo 2020 a success for Team GB

Grab ten minutes between getting snacks from the fridge and watching Team GB bringing on the great, to browse our course search. It could be your ticket to becoming part of our Olympic success in Tokyo 2020.


Image credit:Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil