During a visit to Wales, London's Olympic organising committee (LOCOG) chairman Sebastian Coe has reaffirmed to Welsh First Minister Rhodri Morgan that Essex remains the preferred choice of venue for the 2012 Games' mountain biking event.
The pair had face-to-face discussions earlier this week while Lord Coe was in Cardiff to meet Welsh Assembly members and to promote the Games in local schools. The First Minister used the occasion to press the case for the mountain biking competition to be hosted by the Principality, which in recent years has used the sport as a means to help the regeneration of areas affected by the loss of traditional industries.
The Welsh Heritage Minister, Rhodri Glyn Thomas, is also believed to have added his voice to that of the First Minister during a meeting with Lord Coe. BikeRadar understands that the LOCOG chairman indicated that should a suitable venue not be found in Essex, Wales would be in the frame to host the event along with other parts of the UK.
In January the UCI rejected LOCOG’s proposal to use Essex’s WealdPark on the basis that the proposed course was simply not challenging enough.
Many observers remain puzzled by the apparent insistence that the event goes to one of the flattest counties in Britain, which at its highest point is just 147m, and which has little in the way of mountain biking heritage. LOCOG says: “Essex has been a great partner for us, and our priority is to explore all the opportunities we can within Essex given it's proximity to the Olympic Park.”
Essex County Council is known to be in discussion with the Salvation Army, the owner of land adjacent to the county’s HadleighCastle which has been identified as a possible site for the event. The Council has quantified the financial benefits of the hosting the event at £139 million and appears determined to ensure that the money does not go elsewhere.