by Richard Kay
The Manchester Velodrome – the home of British cycling – could be made redundant from international racing after plans were announced to build a state of the art facility in London for the 2012 Olympics.
The velodrome in Manchester was thrust into the spotlight after hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2002. Since then it has become the main training base for the hugely successful GB cycle team, including Olympic heroes Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins and Rebecca Remero.
In fact, the team has had such an effect on Manchester that they were awarded the Freedom of the City after their Olympic exploits in Beijing.
However, the proud history of the facility could long be forgotten as plans for the velopark in London gather pace.
Earlier this year Olympics minister Tessa Jowell revealed the overall budget for the velopark had been bumped up to over £100 million. This begs the question: why is so much money being spent on a purpose-built facility in London when Manchester already boasts the world’s greatest cycling arena?
There is no doubt that the hosting of the Olympic Games will do wonders for sporting provisions and participation in the UK. However, London’s gain could be Manchester’s loss. The Olympic Games are threatening to overshadow Manchester’s Commonwealth Games legacy.
It is not only cycling in Manchester that could be affected. Construction work has begun on a 17,500 seat Aquatics Centre in Stratford, which will cost a staggering ten times more than its equivalent in Manchester.
There is an argument that the building of Olympic facilities in London will not in any way hamper the provisions that Manchester’s Commonwealth Games facilities have to offer. However, the withdrawal of high profile international sporting events from Manchester could well curb interest in sports outside the mainstream such as cycling and swimming.
Manchester is due to host the prestigious UCI Track World Cup Classic for the second year running following the success of the event last year.
It will be a chance for Manchester to see their Olympic cycling heroes such as Hoy and Victoria Pendleton, with tickets for the Saturday having already sold out.
Jonny Clay, Cycle Sport and Membership Director at British Cycling, said: “We are delighted to be hosting all three events in the same city over three consecutive weeks so that anyone in the North West region can see the world’s best cyclists compete on their doorstep.”
Local fans are obviously taking the chance while it lasts. With 2012 creeping ever closer, events like this are likely to be a thing of the past as London could take preference over its Northern rival.
“We are leaving facilities for Londoners for the next fifty years,” said Lord Coe, chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games.
But what about the rest of the country?
With what has been described as a ‘golden decade’ of British sport approaching, Manchester should do well not to be forgotten.
With its football heritage, surely Manchester is a frontrunner to be a host city for the 2018 World Cup, if the application is accepted.
However, with the Champions League Final, ATP World Tennis Championships, World Artistic Gymnastic Championships and of course Olympic Games heading to London in the next three years, the sporting pre-eminence that Manchester has enjoyed recently is under serious threat.