Essex to propose Olympic mountain bike alternatives

Despite knock-back, county determined to host event

The London 2012 Olympic organising committee (LOCOG) has confirmed to BikeRadar that the International Cycling Federation (UCI) has requested a more challenging course than Weald Park for the Mountain Biking competition at the 2012 Games.

A statement from LOCOG maintains that WealdPark was originally approved as the 2012 Mountain Biking venue by the UCI in 2004 as part of the candidate file, but goes on to claim that the sport has evolved and course requirements are becoming more stringent.

“The UCI has asked us to find a course that meets new and challenging requirements that test the best mountain bikers in the world in 2012.  Whilst this is disappointing news, we have agreed that, together with Essex County Council, we will look at other possible venues within Essex that meet the new requirements of the sport,” said Jackie Brock-Doyle a London 2012 Organising Committee spokesperson.

Meanwhile Essex Councillor Stephen Castle said:  “Of course it is extremely disappointing that UCI has changed its decision to accept Weald as a venue for Mountain Biking.  We are now in discussions with LOCOG about other suitable locations which will provide us with an alternative site in Essex.

“Having the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games on our doorstep is a tremendous opportunity for Essex and will be an exciting time for the County. We will ensure Essex plays a major part in the success of the 2012 Games,” he added.

There will be many who believe Essex's County Council's confidence that it can find a suitable alternative to Weald Park within its boundaries is misplaced. The UCI's Mountain Biking sports co-ordinator has already told BikeRadar that he is prepared to look at venues up to a three hour drive from London. Observers believe Epping Forest is the only other possible alternative to Weald Park within Essex, but if a second proposal were rejected the result would be considerable embarassment for both the County Council and LOCOG.

One of the reasons why the council is so determined to attract the Olympic event is made clear on its own website. "In 2012 Essex will host the mountain biking event at Weald Park," the site states. "It is projected that the economic benefits to the county could be as high as £139 million, but only if action is taken to attract the tourism, win the construction contracts, and fund the skills courses." Having decided there is so much at stake, it appears the council is not prepared to let the event go elsewhere without a fight. 

But what do you think? Should Essex's proximity to London and the desire for a "compact" Games overide the necessity to find a suitably challenging venue for the Mountain biking competiton? Or can another site in Essex fully satisfy the UCI's requirements? Log in and leave your comments below.

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