By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - British athletes were assured by Prime Minister David Cameron on Sunday that government and National Lottery cash would continue to fund their training programmes through to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Britain, hosting the Games in London for the third time, has enjoyed its best Olympic performance since 1908 with 28 golds and 62 medals going into the final day. Team GB are third on the overall table.
"This is no time to pull the plug on winners - the heroes who will inspire a generation again in four years' time," Cameron wrote in an article published in the Sunday Times newspaper.
"So while most public spending programmes are set in concrete for the years ahead, I can confirm we will continue to fully fund elite sports ahead of the Rio Games in 2016, with 120 million pounds a year."
UK Sport had already been allocated government funding for elite athletes up to the end of the current spending review period (2014/15).
The new commitment ensures funding through the entire Olympic cycle.
Cameron said the Games must "open the ambitions of the next generation" and the change had to start with competitive sport in schools.
The government said in a separate statement that, in the volunteering spirit of the Games, funded British athletes would be asked to offer up to five days a year of their time, for free, to inspire a generation through school sport.
"I am old enough to remember a time when things were run on a shoestring budget before National Lottery and Government investment transformed British Olympic sport," said Chris Hoy, Britain's most decorated Olympian with six golds and seven career medals in cycling.
"Having these guarantees for the future will be a huge boost for all the athletes aiming to win medals at Rio 2016 and proves we are serious about building a strong legacy from London 2012."
Cameron linked Britain's success at the Olympics to his own efforts to drag an ailing economy out of recession, saying the games were a confidence booster for the nation that showed the value of planning and hard work.
"This is a very confident country that has delivered something on time, on budget, superbly well done, a country that can really not just deliver but can shine while it does so," Cameron told BBC television.
"It is an enormous confidence booster about who we are as a country, what we can do, what we stand for and the fact that we can make our way in a tough and competitive world."
Cameron's coalition government, nearly half-way through a five-year term, saw its support in opinion polls slump after an unpopular budget in March and has yet to see any uplift in its ratings from British athletes' winning Olympic performances.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, additional reporting by Tim Castle, editing by Justin Palmer)