Last week’s decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) not to add any new disciplines to the program for Rio 2016 has emerged as the latest battleground in the tetchy duel for the Presidency of the International Cycling Union (UCI).
Pat McQuaid, the incumbent President, said he remained confident that new cycling disciplines would be added to the Olympic program in the “near future,” notwithstanding the IOC ruling.
But, Brian Cookson, McQuaid’s British challenger, put a different gloss on the sport’s position, saying that it seemed “obvious” that cycling’s ability to influence high-level decisions had “suffered” under the current UCI leadership.
McQuaid, who is seeking a third term as President, admitted that the IOC decision not to include a points race and BMX freestyle and mountain bike eliminator events for both genders was something of a setback, but insisted that cycling’s global popularity would help see the new disciplines make it onto the Olympic program in the not too distant future.
“The UCI has taken note of this setback, which concerns all the new sports proposed for Rio 2016 rather than for cycling per se,” the UCI President and Irish IOC member told insidethegames.
“One of the many challenges facing the new IOC President [who will be elected in September] will be to make the Olympic program attractive to a youth audience.
“And in coming years there will certainly be more emphasis on events and disciplines that appeal to young people, accordingly the UCI needs to be ready to adapt.
“As you know cycling plays an important role at the Games and among fans with its four disciplines already on the Olympic program.
“We are proposing the addition of mountain bike eliminator, the points race on the track BMX freestyle, because they are accessible, spectacular disciplines and especially appealing to youth; all also have an existing culture and easily lend themselves to further development.
“The IOC’s Executive Board earlier this year gave cycling a vote of confidence when it proposed to maintain cycling in the list of 25 core sports of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.
“Cycling’s popularity worldwide and massive growth at grassroots level, would have been a couple of the many factors taken into account.
“Therefore we remain confident that new disciplines may be added in the near future.”
Cookson said it was a shame cycling had “stood still” for the last four Games in terms of the number of Olympic events and warned that confirmation the IOC was to conduct an in-depth study into disciplines on the program “could see sports losing events in place of others as early as 2020.”
In such circumstances, he argued, the “need for cycling to have a respected voice to press our case has never been greater.”
He went on: “If we’re honest, we all know what has been holding cycling back; it is the fundamental issue of trust and the credibility of the sport, particularly the road disciplines.
“I don’t believe that we can restore people’s trust in the sport without a radical change in the way the UCI operates and for that we need a change of leadership.
“Restore people’s trust in what we do and the sport’s influence will grow.”
X-Games discipline BMX freestyle is a form of stunt riding that can trace its history back to 1975 when teenagers started riding bikes in concrete Escondido reservoir channels in California. It is now a popular sport in both Europe and the United States.
The mountain bike eliminator, in which four riders compete against each other in each heat, made its debut in 2010 at the German XC Bundesliga before being tested at two UCI events in Dalby Forest and Nové Město na Moravě in Czech Republic the following year.
The format differs from the classic cross country race both in its sprint character and the separation of the race into heats, combining the intensity of head-to-head battles with an all-terrain nature of climbing and descending, its supporters claim.It was officially integrated into the World Cup in 2012 with the first World Championships being held at Saalfelden in Austria, where the winners were Switzerland’s Ralph Näf and Sweden’s Alexandra Engen.
Meanwhile, the individual points race, which featured between Atlanta 1996 and Beijing 2008, where Spain’s Joan Llaneras and the Netherlands’ Marianne Vos claimed the gold medals, was controversially removed for London 2012 as part of the UCI’s drive to create gender parity and was replaced by the multi-event omnium.
The omnium replaced the individual pursuit, the points race and the Madison in the Olympics at London 2012 as the mass-start multiple race event was incorporated for the Games, where the men’s race was won by Denmark’s Lasse Hansen and the women’s by Britain’s Laura Trott. The future introduction of the individual points race for both men and women could see the omnium removed.
Other sports including triathlon, which had hoped to have a mixed relay included; basketball, which had lobbied hard for the inclusion of 3×3, and judo, which was applying to put on a team event involving men and women, also had their hopes of additional disciplines on the Olympic program dashed.
Inside the Games is an online blog of the London Organizing Committee that staged the 2012 London Games. The blog continues to cover issues that are important to the Olympic Movement. This article is reprinted here with permission of the blog editors.