(ATR) Brian Cookson tells Around the Rings
he is “very relieved” track cycling is underway with no glitches after the troubles that plagued the Olympic velodrome project.
Track cycling at the Rio Velodrome (Getty Images)
“It is absolutely fantastic. We are real happy,” the UCI president told ATR
at the venue on day one of competition, which was littered with Olympic records and two new world marks.
“The Rio 2016 people have finally done a great job. The mayor of Rio had personal involvement in getting to where we are now. We were really worried,” he said.
Of all the competition venues for Rio 2016, the velodrome was the biggest headache for organizers and the IOC. Financial and construction delays led to the official test event being abandoned and raised fears that it would not be finished in time for the Games. A few days into the Olympics, workers were still putting the final touches to the fit-out of the facility.
“We are very relieved. We put a lot of effort in ourselves. We put a lot of pressure on the IOC, Rio 2016 and the mayor’s office and they have responded very positively,” said a cheerful Cookson.
“I’m very grateful too all of them for taking our concerns seriously and delivering on what they promised.
“It’s really well decked out. It’s a fast track. We have seen some world records and I think we’re going to see some more.”
So far there’s been only positive feedback from cyclists. “It’s proving what it can do,” Cookson said.
UCI president Brian Cookson (ATR)
And the IOC is satisfied too. At the opening session of track cycling, Cookson sat next to IOC vice president John Coates, a member of the Rio 2016 evaluation commission. Since the start of the Games, empty seats at many venues have caused problems for organizers.
“He said to me that we are doing better than anybody else in ticket sales so we are very pleased about that,” Cookson reported.
The British, Australian and New Zealand men and women, in particular, were in fine form in the team pursuit and team sprint competitions. British fans, waving Union Jack flags, were most vocal fans at a virtually full house.
With a fast track and electric atmosphere, Cookson expects more full houses and records to tumble over the next five days of competition, with medals spread around more nations – “some good old favorites and new nations”.
Changes for Tokyo 2020?
The UCI has not only had a battle to get the Rio velodrome complete but also to negotiate a deal with Tokyo 2020 for a track cycling venue. With the IOC advising on cutbacks, an agreement was reached earlier this year to relocate the velodrome from the heart of Tokyo to a facility in the city of Izu two-and-a-half hours from the Japanese capital.
“It’s less than ideal but I am convinced they will do a good job of it there and we will make special arrangements,” Cookson said.
He expects Tokyo 2020 will take some valuable lessons from the Rio Games. “One of the things we are hoping is that Tokyo 2020 see the success of the cyling events here, all of them, and perhaps renew and redouble their efforts to provide us with the best possible event organization in the best possible venues,” the cycling federation president said.
An IOC review of the Rio cycling events and disciplines could lead to a reshuffle for Tokyo 2020. At least Cookson hopes so.
In the analysis, Cookson is keen to “develop and adapt our program”.
“I’d certainly like to see some more medals on the track and some new disciplines come in,” he said.
Reported by Mark Bisson at the Olympic Park
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