Labour leader Ed Miliband praises ‘amazing’ role of Manchester’s National Cycling Centre in Olympic legacy

By Pippa Field

Labour leader Ed Miliband is praising Manchester’s National Cycling Centre for ensuring a sporting legacy lives on after London 2012 Olympics.

The MP spoke as he received a tour of the centre by British Cycling’s performance director Dave Brailsford and Brian Cookson, president of the organisation, to see how the city was inspiring people to take up sport.

Joined by Manchester Central’s parliamentary candidate Lucy Powell, they chatted with a group of veteran cyclists training in the velodrome before heading to the indoor BMX track to watch youngsters and elite level athletes.

Mr Miliband, who reiterated his belief that the government should have a ten-year plan across government and sports to protect the sporting legacy, praised the state-of-the-art centre.

“Manchester deserves huge credit for this incredible facility and it produces results,” he said.  “It is an amazing job that’s being done here.

“The Olympics did inspire a generation but you need the facilities as well so that when you inspire a generation they have somewhere to go.

“This is a great facility that does that but obviously we need more facilities like that.

“I think we are in danger of not providing the facilities which young people have a right to expect.”

‘GREAT FACILITY’: Ed Miliband and Lucy Powell at the National Cycling Centre

In light of reports that 31 school playing fields have been sold off since the coalition came to power, and the scrapping of compulsory PE lessons, Mr Miliband welcomed the opportunities presented to young people at the centre.

“It is about the gold medals and the Olympic medals but it is also about the young ones who might otherwise be out on the street but who are in this centre on their bikes,” he said.

“It is as much about that as it is about the elite athletes.”

The centre is open to all abilities and with the games legacy targeting all ages, the Labour MP was impressed by the large number of veterans taking part.

He added: “It is about whole generations. When you’ve got an 82-year-old on his bike speeding around the velodrome, it puts people like me, half his age, to shame.”

Opened in 1994 as Britain’s first indoor Olympic cycling track, the National Cycling Centre hosted the track cycling events at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

And as well as being the home of the highly successful national cycling team, the centre also boasts the world’s only purpose built indoor BMX track.

Despite chatting to BMX World Champion Quillan Isidore and BMX Olympic finalist Liam Phillips in the £19.5m centre, Mr Miliband could not be persuaded to try the sport.

 “They told me that you get used to it and it’s not as scary as it looks,” he said.

“But I think after watching some of the things that people have been doing I’m not going to be rushing to come and train at this track because it looks pretty scary.”

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