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British cycling should receive a huge boost following the announcement today that London has been chosen by the International Olympic Committee to host the 2012 Olympic Games. The announcement from the IOC's meeting in Singapore came as something of a surprise to the thousands who had gathered in London's Trafalgar Square, but was rapturously received. Even up to the last minute, Paris had been the favourite to secure the Games.
The British government and development agencies in East London where the Olympic venues will be built had already committed themselves to the construction of a VeloPark whether or not the Games were awarded to London. Clearly, this project will go ahead, and its construction will help to raise the profile of cycling in Britain's capital and beyond. As well as a covered velodrome, the development is also set to include road racing, BMX and other cycling facilities.
The announcement also raised the gloom that had descended on British cycling following the International Cycling Union's decision to drop the men's kilometre and women's 500-metre time trials from the 2008 Games. Britain has won the kilometre gold medal in the last two Games, thanks to Jason Queally in 2000 and Chris Hoy in 2004.
Speaking on his organisation's website, British Cycling president Brian Cookson described the decision as "great news for sport and great news for cycling. British Cycling will do everything in its power to ensure that these are not only the best ever Games, but also that the British team has the greatest possible success."
British Cycling's chief executive, Peter King, said that "the timing is perfect for us, as we plan to be number one in the world by 2012 and what better stage to demonstrate that on than in our own home country. The build-up to 2012 should result in raising the profile of sport and encourage more people to take part, become fitter and - maybe end up representing GB in London at the Olympic Games."
Hoy, who was at the Trafalgar Square rally-turned-celebration said he was now determined to continue competing through to 2012. "I'll be 36 then and although my original plan was to retire after Beijing, now, I don't see any reason why I can't continue on until 2012. I am sure the raised profile that the sport will get in the country now is going to mean it reaches a wider audience and with the new velodrome that means a greater participation in cycling."
Lance Armstrong, who had backed the Paris bid, said he was surprised to hear the news when it was relaid to the riders during today's Tour stage. "When I woke up this morning coverage of the French Olympic bid was on non-stop and it seemed like a sure thing," said the American.
Another British Olympic champion, Chris Boardman described the bid as "an opportunity to make sport and cycling an integral part of British culture. It creates a new set of problems, but they are nice challenges to have," the 1992 pursuit gold medallist told procycling.
"It should mean an increase in investment in British cycling. The VeloPark will be more high profile now than if we'd lost, but we need more facilities like this around the country in which to train as we're desperately short of them."
It remains to be seen what effect the award of the Games to London might have on the Tour de France's decision on where the 2007 race will start. Representatives of Transport for London, who are promoting London's Tour bid, told procycling that there was no indication from ASO that they were going cold on the idea of visiting the UK in 2007. TfL's Mick Hickford said that he was "clearly pleased the Games had been awarded to London", adding: "I don't think this will impact negatively on London's Tour bid."
Hickford said a decision on the 2007 Tour start is now expected in the autumn.
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