(ATR) Brian Cookson tells Around the Rings
of his concerns for the Olympic velodrome and plans to expand the track program for the 2020 and 2024 Games.
Rio 2016 velodrome is still under construction. (Getty Images)
With the track installation still taking place at the delay-hit track cycling venue and no test event before the Games, the UCI and Rio 2016 venue managers face a considerable challenge to deliver smooth competitions.
“We are disappointed that the velodrome is much later in completion than was hoped for,” Cookson told ATR
on the sidelines of the SportAccord Convention.
Delays have led to the cancellation of the test event, which would have tested the track, timing system and other operations. Instead, the UCI has to make do with a couple of low-key training days to test the venue.
“We are assured by Rio 2016 that everything will be in order for the Games,” he said, adding that UCI officials would work closely with the IOC and Rio 2016 staff to “have a great facility”.
He talks of the need to carefully manage and maintain the Siberian timber track through the weeks building up to and during the track cycling events in August.
UCI president Brian Cookson (ATR)
Cookson’s fear is that glitches with the track, timing system and other parts of the venue might trigger a wave of complaints from athletes.
“All of those things are a concern absolutely,” he said. “It will require hard work between now and the Games to make sure that everything functions properly. We will do everything we can to help our colleagues in Rio to do that.”
Looking ahead to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Cookson expressed confidence that expansion and conversion work of the Izu training venue, some two-and-a-half hours from Tokyo, will deliver a good Olympic venue.
He hopes the UCI will be repaid for its agreement, albeit reluctantly, to relocate the velodrome from the heart of Tokyo to Izu. Cookson aims to deliver a positive legacy, which may include bringing major events to Izu in the future.
For the 2020 and 2024 Olympics, the UCI has ambitions to grow cycling’s presence on the Games program.
“It’s no secret that I want to defend and expand the track program if I possibly can,” he told ATR
“We would look at how we manage the whole track program,” he said, speaking about adjusting and developing the omnium, and tweaks to the points race, madison and pursuit events without the need to add more athletes.
“I would certainly like to see some flexibility on the number of medal possibilities in the track program,” he said. “This is something we would like to keep talking to the IOC about between now and the final announcement of the Games program for Tokyo.”
UCI cycling championships (ATR)
After the IOC’s review of the Rio 2016 sports program, the UCI will review how successful the Games was for the federation.
“I want to make sure we take into account the views of our national federations our NOCs and so on,” he added. “Clearly one of the things they tell us, if we can get more unpredictability into the cycling competitions then that increases everybody’s interest and everybody’s willingness to be part of the track program.”
In a dig at former UCI president Pat McQuaid, Cookson said: “Previous administrations I think gave out the signal that track racing was in decline and could be viewed as something that could be reduced.”
Recalling that the UCI was forced to cut some events after Athens 2000 and Beijing 2008, the latter for gender equality, he vowed to try and return “some important, exciting and traditional events” to the Olympic fold.
“I would like to have flexibility, to have another set of medals for men and women would be a great outcome for us,” he said.
With doping in the spotlight ahead of Rio 2016, Cookson appeared to be unconcerned that drug problems would be a big issue for cycling at the Games.
He spoke of the importance of the biological passport as “a great tool” in the fight against the drug cheats and how he had helped repair relations with the World Anti-Doping Agency since succeeding McQuaid.
“We have now an extremely good working relationship with WADA, that’s in contrast to my predecessors,” he said.
“It’s an important difference. There is a level of trust between all of us in our sport and the anti-doping movement generally that was absent before. I am determined that we will keep that going.”
Asked about his expectations for cycling at the Rio Olympics, he said: “London set a very high bar for everything including the cycling events. All cycling disciplines were all incredibly exciting, they gave great sporting images, great images of London.
“We are all set for the same thing from Rio,” he added, talking of the stunning backdrops for the road courses, mountain bike and BMX and “some intense competitions” with new nations emerging stronger from their experience in London.
With medals more widely spread, he said: “I think it’s going to be absolutely fantastic.”
Reported by Mark Bisson
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