For British Cycling, today’s announcement by Ken Livingstone and the organisers of London’s Olympic bid, represents a highly successful outcome to almost 18 months of hard work alongside the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, Sport England, London Development Agency and other parties.
The new track is a crucial component of British Cycling’s ambitious facility strategy, which includes plans for four covered 250-metre velodromes in the UK. Currently there are tracks in Manchester (a pre-build for Manchester’s Olympic bid and host to the 2002 Commonwealth Games) and Newport, South Wales, opened late 2003.
London is the third track and Edinburgh is likely to be the fourth.
The new facility at the Lee Valley park will also be a regional base for British Cycling’s Talent Team programme, which tests over 30,000 children across the UK annually, in the search for future GB team riders.
British Cycling has maintained from the outset that the new London velodrome needed to be a permanent facility and not temporary, as the early plans suggested. Velodromes have good "pre-build" and "legacy" characteristics: they are relatively cheap to build, extremely economical to run and attract a high number of users from the local and regional community.
The Velodrome is expected to be the centre-piece of a "Velo-park", incorporating a BMX track, closed road circuit and cycle speedway track.
British Cycling’s CEO Peter King has been closely involved in the project from the start, spending a considerable amount of time lobbying politicians on cycling’s behalf, and he welcomed the announcement:
"The velodrome is only the second piece of pre-build for 2012 to be announced. That fact, and the timing of the announcement, coinciding with the IOC’s crucial visit to London, are both significant and point to cycling’s current status within the sporting hierarchy. British Cycling has shown itself to be a reliable deliverer of Olympic success, but it has also used its existing facilities wisely and this has assisted in the sport securing this excellent new facility. I think I’m speaking for the nation’s cyclists, when I say that I hope it will be a cornerstone of a hugely successful Olympic bid by London."
British Cycling’s facilities manager, David Cockram has no doubts about the potential of such a facility and is keen to point out its value to the people of London and the South-East:
"I sometimes call the Manchester velodrome a medal factory, which is what it has become over the last seven years. But that is only part of the story. The other success of Manchester is its role as a track where anybody can come along and experience the thrill of try riding an Olympic-standard track. The public taster sessions, which run virtually every day of the year are over-subscribed. The local development club, Eastlands Velo, has to turn children away from their Monday evening sessions because they can’t meet the demand. The place buzzes from morning to late evening every day of the week.
With its huge catchment area, the new London Velodrome and the surrounding Velo-park have the potential to be even more popular and an even more influential in the development of both home-grown cycling heroes and the broader sport of cycling."