Richard Moore - Velodrome demolition will leave a big hole
A WONDERFUL weekend's racing at the Meadowbank velodrome served to illustrate exactly what is going to be missed when, as City of Edinburgh Council confirmed last week, the facility is flattened. The only welcome news is that the cycling track has a stay of execution – it will remain until 2011, when, if all goes to plan, Glasgow's indoor velodrome should be completed.
Among the 70 cyclists competing in the DHL Edinburgh Grand Prix were around 20 youths. There is some exciting talent, as highlighted by yesterday's finale, when the team sprint saw three young Scots – Callum Skinner, Kevin Stewart and Jamie Bremner – sensationally beat experienced senior teams from Spain and the Netherlands.
Each of these riders is as promising as Chris Hoy and Craig MacLean were at their age, and they could conceivably be Scotland's team at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Currently, however, they face huge obstacles, not least the almost-weekly ten-hour round trips to Manchester for training.
Dundee and Edinburgh are the hotbeds for this talent, because they are the only cities with tracks and youth clubs. Which proves, conclusively, what it takes to develop talent – facilities and volunteers.
Unfortunately, these considerations appear to have been overlooked in Edinburgh's sports facilities strategy. In fact, the council's plans, based on the sale of a third of the Meadowbank site for housing, could be critically flawed, given the collapse in the housing market, which means the value of the land is plummeting.
The council's latest plans were presented at a meeting last Wednesday, during which the Commonwealth Pool refurbishment, currently estimated at 36m, was also discussed. The council say this will start next year and be completed by 2011, with the urgency due in part to the fact the work has already been so delayed, but also because it will host the diving at the 2014 Games.
Or will it? Perhaps not, since it has emerged that diving could be dropped from the 2014 Games in a review that will not be held until after the 2010 Games in Delhi. Along with synchronised swimming and race walking, diving is threatened with the axe due to low numbers.
Sir Peter Heatly, the winner of three diving gold medals in three Commonwealth Games and a former chairman of the CGF, admits he is concerned. "It would be unfortunate if diving went," he says. "For 2014, Glasgow has shunted diving off to Edinburgh. Glasgow has an excellent pool, but without a diving pool it is only half a pool. They built it with the attitude that they'd add the diving pool later, but unless it comes from Santa Claus it doesn't come at all.
"Without any doubt, Glasgow should have a diving pool. Delhi will decide whether there is diving in the 2014 Games, but I think it would be very unfortunate if we lost it."
Sshh... oldest gym club axed
IT ISN'T only Edinburgh and Glasgow who are guilty of neglecting facilities. In Alloa the Speirs Centre, home to Scotland's oldest gymnastics club – Alloa Gymnastics Club, as well as two others, is to be converted into a library and museum, with the gymnasts left homeless. The local council say that will be temporary, with a new gym to be built in Alva, but they can't say when.
The 120-year old Alloa club produced Steve Frew, the 2002 Commonwealth Games gold medallist, and Adam Cox, the 2004 Commonwealth Youth Champion, and it is currently thriving, with 60-odd active members aged from seven to 80 years-plus. But when the club's lease runs out, next year, they will be out. Clackmannanshire Council has promised a new gym, attached to Alva Academy, but Alva is a 15-minute drive away and the time scale, and financing of the project, are still up in the air.
Worse still, the club will take delivery of 10,000 worth of new equipment next month, paid for with a generous grant from the Coalfields Regeneration Trust.
Eileen Dall, the Alloa club's treasurer, says that the uncertainty is damaging the club. "The club is the oldest continuously running gymnastics club in Scotland.
"It's strange that it's being turned into a library. Nothing against libraries, but we've already got one in Alloa."
Runners in for the long haul
SCOTTISH ATHLETICS' initiative to increase interest in the 10,000 metres appears to have worked. Having attracted only three men and one woman to last year's national championships it was decided to drop it from this year's championships and add the national title race instead to the programme for next week's televised Bank of Scotland Cup at Grangemouth, with the incentive of more than 1,500 in prize money.
As Mike Johnston, the national endurance manager, noted, it is not that people are not interested in running the distance – witness the huge popularity of 10km road races.
With entries now closed, Johnston reports there has been an encouraging response. Thirty have entered – 24 men, which should make for a decent race, and six women, which is okay – including four club teams. It is certainly a dramatic improvement on last year's combined race.