UCI president-elect Pat McQuaid says, when handed a petition condemning the loss of the kilometre an
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International Cycling Union president-elect Pat McQuaid has said that any decision about reinstating the kilometre and 500-metre time trial events to the 2008 Olympic Games is completely in the hands of the International Olympic Committee. McQuaid was speaking to Bikebiz.com editor Carlton Reid and track rider Julie Dominguez on Thursday when they handed over a 10,000-strong petition condemning the loss of the two track events.
“It’s up to the IOC to change this decision. It can’t be changed by the UCI,” said McQuaid, who admitted the loss of the 500-metre women’s event was a “catastrophe” for Games’ hosts China, who had serious hopes of winning the gold medal.
“They (the IOC) came to us 18 months ago asking for the inclusion of BMX,” said Irishman McQuaid, who is tipped as the most likely successor to current UCI president Hein Verbruggen. “We agreed to that and knew we’d have to drop two medals to accommodate BMX. It was the IOC who told us to exclude track events, not road, because the women’s 500m, for instance, was only introduced at Sydney.”
The kilometre, however, has been on the Olympic programme since the inception of the Games in 1896. Current kilo champion Chris Hoy, whose website hosted the petition, described the loss of the event as “devastating”, while a host of other track and road stars chipped in with equally condemnatory comments on the petition.
McQuaid hinted at one key reason for the dropping of the time trial events, suggesting that the television audience was lower for these races. “As well as the survey we did our own analysis of the TV figures and found that the kilo and the 500m were not as strong as other events,” he said.
He pointed out that the decision was made after consulting with 24 federations, of which 19 expressed an opinion on the matter. “You’ve got to realise that each federation votes in its own interests. Those countries that don’t have any specialists in the kilo voted against the kilo. The kilo has a long history in the Olympics but it’s a speciality of just a few, big nations. Lots of countries don’t bother to put athletes in because they know they can’t win.”
But the same can surely be said of a number of other track events, such as the team pursuit and team sprint, which often attract relatively few entries. While 13 nations contested the kilometre at the Athens Games in 2004, 12 contested the team pursuit and just 10 the team sprint. Eleven nations contested the 500-metre TT won by Australia’s Anna Meares.
McQuaid agreed that the loss of the 500-metre TT was “a catastrophe for Chinese cycling”. The Chinese took the silver medal in Athens. “Two weeks ago I was at a meal in China and was with the president of the Chinese cycle federation on one side and a translator on the other. I had a 45-minute ear bending. He’d somehow got wind that it was likely the 500m would be chosen. He was very angry. The Beijing Olympic committee is mad, too. But in a country of one billion people, they’ve got to be able to field cyclists in other disciplines, they need strength in depth, not just one event,” McQuaid explained.
He added that the deletion of the two events should be seen against the background of some sports facing the prospect of total exclusion from the Games, such as archery.
McQuaid said the UCI will not review its decision on the time trial events but said there could be a glimmer of hope, if representations were made instead to the IOC. “We can’t recommend to people or federations to lobby their national IOC members but that’s what it might take.”