OFFICIALS from British and Scottish Cycling yesterday took their fight for an indoor velodrome to Edinburgh’s City Chambers, underlining to council officials and MSPs the case for a new £10million facility.
The proposed project has been allocated 3 million as part of the National and Regional Sports Facilities strategy, which received 50 million last year in Scottish Executive and lottery funding. Since the July announcement of that funding, however, there has been no progress on the velodrome and indoor football barn planned for Hunters Hall, and Edinburgh Council admits that it is not a penny closer to raising the 7 million still required to build the facility.
Peter King, the chief executive of British Cycling, travelled to Edinburgh yesterday to stress that the facility is essential not just for Scotland but for the UK cycling strategy. He also warned that Scotland - traditionally the strongest of the home nations in track cycling - risks falling behind the rest of the UK in cycling provision and performance if the velodrome fails to materialise.
"Our strategy for the next four years is all about increasing participation and maintaining excellence," said King, noting that Britain’s cyclists recently emerged from the Los Angeles world championships at the top of the medals table.
"But the UK plan revolves around facilities. Manchester is the national centre of excellence, we have an indoor facility in Newport and soon we will have one in London, but the plan will not work without one more building block - the indoor velodrome in Edinburgh.
"Manchester is the busiest velodrome in the world," continued King. "It’s booked solidly from 8am in the morning until 10pm at night, and its effect on the North West of England has been that there are more cycling clubs, more events and, crucially, more participants than in any other region of England. It follows that the same would happen in Edinburgh."
With the Meadowbank velodrome in an increasingly poor state of repair, Scotland’s track squad travels regularly to Manchester to train. But it’s becoming more difficult to book training time, meaning that the squad is compelled to travel at least once a month to Newport - a round trip of nine hours.
The lack of progress in Edinburgh also threatens to derail any bid to bring the Commonwealth Games to Scotland. Cycling is currently the only Commonwealth Games sport without an international standard facility. If the proposed bid by Glasgow goes ahead then it seems likely that the track cycling events would take place at a new track in Edinburgh. The alternative could see a new track built in Glasgow, but there are fears that such a structure may only a temporary one.
Apart from the difficulties in providing a new track, the sport is in rude health. King claimed that cycling is the only sport whose governing body can boast a 10 per cent increase in membership so far this year.
Meanwhile, a new partnership between Scottish Cycling and GlaxoSmithKline Nutritional Healthcare was announced yesterday. The initiative will see twenty schools being visited by the British Cycling-run Go-Ride scheme this year, with around 600 children receiving cycling coaching.
The scheme follows a survey conducted by GSK last year, in which 85 per cent of parents reported that their children had received no formal cycling training.