The quota system for honours has been accused of favouring civil servants over athletes as it was revealed just one medal winner could be made a knight or a dame this year.

Under the centuries-old rules, the second-highest honour, a CBE, can be awarded to 20 bureaucrats, but just four sports stars, the Daily Telegraph reported.

More than 100 Britons won medals at the London 2012 Games – 43 of them gold.

But senior officials in the civil service appear reluctant to change the rules especially for Olympians, the Telegraph claimed.

The paper cited Sir Bob Kerslake, head of the civil service, who has said that Olympic athletes should demonstrate community work alongside their sporting prowess before being honoured.

However, MPs appear to be in favour of bending the rules for British victors of this year’s Olympics.

MP Bernard Jenkin, chairman of a select committee charged with publishing a report on the honours system, told the broadsheet: “Personally, I see no reason why, if extra sporting knighthoods are recommended, they should not be granted.”

And, in an apparent swipe at so-called pen pushers, Jenkin added: “It does no harm for some [civil servants] to have to wait. An Olympic medal is surely worth more than any gong awarded by some mysterious committee.”

Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, a member of the committee that decides which sports star to honour, also spoke out in favour of Olympians, saying that she hoped there would be “opportunity for some flexibility” this year.

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