Dave Cockram is British Cycling’s facilities manager. Here’s his statement in full.
There has been much speculation in the last week or so regarding the impact of the London Olympic Bid on the existing cycle racing facilities at Eastway. It has been said, amongst other things, that the facility will disappear, that British Cycling has traded the existing facility for a Velodrome, that British Cycling has not considered the Eastway Cycle Circuit users, that the Olympic Planners have not considered cycling at all and that the Lee Valley Park Authority will sell their land to the highest bidder and want rid of Eastway in any case.
Ever since British Cycling was invited to the first meeting with the LVRPA, their absolute dedication to the Eastway cause has been obvious. Their logo says "Open Spaces and Sporting Places" and that’s exactly what they do. Unlike other Local Authorities, LVRPA have no other function other than to provide sport and leisure facilities. Their budget is provided by all the London Boroughs plus the counties of Essex and Hertfordshire and 100% of it goes on sport, leisure and green spaces. Cycle racing fits perhaps like no other sport into the Lee Valley ethic, because it takes a large area of land, keeps it green and provides healthy sport and recreation for large number of people at a relatively low cost in sports facility terms. In the LVRPA’s 10 Year Plan, which started in 2000, there is a firm commitment to develop the Eastway circuit into a multi use cycling facility known as the Velopark, regardless of the Olympic Bid. That commitment remains, and has been strengthened by addition of the Olympic plans. How? By the addition of an indoor velodrome for a start. Not as a trade off for the loss of the circuit, but in addition to the other facilities in the Velopark. A velodrome is a cheap in Olympic facility terms, not only to build but also to maintain and run as a legacy facility. When Manchester made its bid for the 2000 Games, the velodrome was chosen as a ‘pre build’ facility for these reasons. It has been said by those claiming to be Eastway Cycle Circuit supporters, that it is preferable to keep the existing facility rather than build a new velodrome. Loosing the Eastway cycle circuit in favour of a velodrome is not an option that has ever been discussed in any of the meetings British Cycling representatives have attended. The road circuit is always the central feature regardless of the outcome of the Olympic bid. Put more simply, if the bid is successful, then London gets a velodrome, if the bid is unsuccessful, London possibly gets a velodrome as an addition to the LVRPA Velopark and a cycle circuit. It’s also important to realise that the Velodrome is more than just a track. The building can provide all the infrastructure and support needed for the Velopark, as well as a versatile building. Changing facilities, meeting rooms, sports science support, physiotherapy, gymnasium facilities for socialising, car parking and everything else needed in a modern leisure facility is also available if the Manchester model is followed. The Manchester Velodrome is the most heavily used indoor track in the world, and it is used by everyone from schoolchildren to pensioners, 9 in the morning till 10 at night, 7 days a week, with the afternoon sessions usually reserved for our Olympic and World Champions. Forgot that? Don’t — because the success of Great Britain riders at world level, and the funding that is brought into the sport because of that, is a direct result of us having one of the best velodromes in the world. We have recently seen the opening of the Newport Velodrome, and a third in London would be the icing on the cake as far as cycle racing in England and Wales is concerned. THE EASTWAY ROAD CIRCUIT
The Velopark scheme has always included a road circuit as its main feature. This may be different in configuration to the existing circuit in order to fit in and around whatever facilities are built for the Games if the bid is successful. The Master Planners have now recognised the need for a cycle racing facility at all times during the Bid process, and in the Olympic construction phase if London is successful. The design of this cycling facility is not yet fixed, and cannot be until the Olympic plans are finalised, but the criteria for the design are known, and will be incorporated in the design process. All that’s needed is a one mile loop of lightweight road, its not that big a deal in construction terms and given that there is land available, then it should be possible to design not just one circuit, but a number of variations and loops suitable for young riders so that they can ride always within sight of the start/finish line. The off road or MTB use of Eastway is recognised as a major part of the facilities usage. The same criteria apply as to the road circuit. That is to say that there is a fundamental need for off road facilities to be provided throughout the Olympic bid process, throughout the Olympic facility construction phase and post Olympics.
Unfortunately the natural terrain at Eastway does not provide opportunity for the construction of an Olympic standard MTB course, otherwise this would have been an integral part of the Olympic facilities like the Velodrome and the BMX track. If the Olympics come to London, then the decommissioning of the non cycling facilities post Olympics will provide a wonderful opportunity to construct an off road course as the site is re landscaped. As well as the Velodrome, if London is successful, then there is a need to construct a BMX facility. This will remain as a legacy and will form another part of the Velopark. There is no international standard BMX track available in London, but it’s an Olympic sport from 2008, and can only gain in popularity. In the scenario of an unsuccessful Olympic bid then a lower grade BMX race facility, together with a play track will be built. Provisional plans for a Cycle Speedway Circuit are included, but its construction will be dependant on whether a need can be established. We recognise that there are users of Eastway that are not members of British Cycling, but we are not ignoring them. Nothing British Cycling has done, or intends to do with regard to Eastway is against the interests of any branch of cycle sport. The task is enormous, and is well beyond what can be done by well meaning and enthusiastic amateurs working in their spare time. It’s a job for professionals, it takes total commitment in terms of time and resources. We want to see cycle racing in all its forms grow into a major sport in Great Britain, not one that takes place in obscure locations and puts its participants at risk. We want it to be a big sport, with big facilities where people can participate and socialise, bring their children and enjoy everything that the sport has to offer. Eastway will be this facility, before 2012 if London isn’t successful in bidding for the Games. If the London bid is successful, then the capital will have a wonderful legacy of sporting and leisure facilities and social facilities. The legacy is central to the bidding process, its one of the factors that scores very high when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) assess the bids. Of all the Olympic sports, cycling is one of the few that has support from London 2012 for a pre build facility. Its also has major support from the LVRPA, who have a strategy in place to utilise the velodrome as part of plans for a major multi use cycling facility, to provide the land and who have a willingness to accept the legacy usage of the Velodrome whether or not the Olympics come to London.
Sprinters see gaps, they go for them knowing that gaps will close just as quickly as they open. This opportunity is a gap, it’s a chance to get the inside line on the best opportunity for bike racing in London for years. Either we take it whilst it’s available, or we regret for ever.