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Commonweath Games snub fears over Black Country cycling events

By Andrew Turton | Commonwealth Games | Published:

The Black Country faces a Commonwealth Games snub with hopes appearing dashed of hosting cycling events and the building of a multi-million pound velodrome.

Campaigners want a velodrome to be created in the Midlands as part of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham replicating the success of theSir Chris Hoy velodrome in Glasgow

Birmingham 2022 organisers have committed to hosting track and road cycling as part of the games - on the London Olympic velodrome 130 miles away.

Almost 5,000 people have signed a petition calling on organisers to reconsider and demand the Black Country is made part of wider cycling competition programme.

Wolverhampton has been called on to bid to host road cycling events with its historic links to the first-ever race on public streets in the city more than 70 years ago.

Cycling legend Percy Stallard defied the then-national body, the NCU, to hold the road race from Llangollen finishing in Wolverhampton’s West Park on June 7, 1942.

David Viner, who is a trustee of Halesowen Cycling Club, has helped galvanise support for the campaign to widen its scope.

He would also like organisers to still consider building a smaller training velodrome to allow competitors to train in the Midlands ahead of the games.

Wolverhampton cycling legend Hugh Porter is also lending his support.

Colleagues have helped design a route which would showcase the area such as Wolverhampton city centre, Wightwick Manor, Himley House, Dudley Castle, The Black Country Living Museum in addition to Bridgnorth and countryside of the Severn Valley.

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Mr Viner said: “As the Tour de France and many other major cycle races have demonstrated there is no better way of advertising the finest features of a region than TV covering a cycle road race.

"The cycle road races will provide the perfect opportunity for the public to witness a major part of the Commonwealth Games passing through their communities. The event goes to the public without need for the public to travel to a venue and have to pay to spectate.”

However it is believed that a bid from Coventry and Warwick is thought to be the front-runner to host road-racing as part of the games, although organisers say plans have yet to be finalised

Wolverhampton cycling legend Hugh Porter

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Mr Viner has held a meeting with Wolverhampton South West MP Eleanor Smith, who recently spearheaded calls to bring Channel Four to the city, to garner support.

The MP said: “It would be fantastic for the cycling road race to start in Wolverhampton.

"We have the history – the cycle manufacturers Sunbeam and Viking were based here.

"The first road race on open roads in mainland Britain finished here in 1942, and that was organised by local cycling legend Percy Stallard.

“There are currently no plans to have a local velodrome for the Games, which I think is a missed opportunity.

"Rather than the indoor cycle races being held in London, a track could be built in the Black Country which would provide an amazing resource for the West Midlands young cyclists.

“I will work hard with the Games organisers, the relevant Government officers and national sports bodies, and local authorities, to help get Wolverhampton benefit from these games. My message is ‘Share the Games’.”

Wolverhampton Council leader, Councillor Roger Lawrence, was more cautious on the prospects of Wolverhampton hosting cycle racing.

He said: “Birmingham hosting the Commonwealth Games is fantastic for them and the wider region.

“In terms of the cycle race, this is an interesting idea, but plans are most likely already well-advanced by the organisers at this stage.

“I suspect it may be a bit late in the day to change those plans.

“However, there will certainly be other opportunities for the City of Wolverhampton and we have formed a working group to look at how we can maximise those benefits.”

The Black Country has been chosen to host swimming events at the new pool being built in Smethwick.

Mountain biking competitions have been earmarked to take place at Cannock Chase.

A Birmingham 2022 spokesperson said: “When deciding on venues and locations for all sports, a full and rigorous evaluation is carried out, looking at existing local venues, followed by an examination of regional venues where suitable local options do not exist, and finally any facilities further afield where there are no local or regional options.

“We can confirm that Birmingham has introduced Track Cycling and Para Track to the 2022 sports programme.

“As part of its bid process Birmingham explored other regional velodrome options as well as new and temporary facilities, but the options were neither compliant nor economically viable. We hope that the existing velodromes in the UK are able to play a role as training venues.”

They added: “The route for the road race is the subject of detailed discussions with a range of partner organisations to ensure Birmingham and the wider West Midlands’ iconic landmarks are presented in the best possible way to a worldwide audience.

“Consideration also has to be given to ensuring the region’s transport networks can still function effectively when the races take place and that the selected route offers a good challenge for the athletes who participate.

“The final route will be announced at a point in the future, closer to the start of Birmingham 2022.”

Anyone wishing to back the campaign can sign the petition via www.change.org and searching for ‘West Midlands velodrome’.

Andrew Turton

By Andrew Turton
Digital Journalist

Digital journalist based at the Express & Star's head office in Wolverhampton. Interested in breaking news and social media. Get in touch on Twitter @aturton_star or andrew.turton@expressandstar.co.uk

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