Armed with 10,679 signatures voting to overturn the recent decision by the UCI to remove the men's kilometre and women's 500 metre time trial from the 2008 Olympic Games, BikeBiz.com editor Carlton Reid and track rider Julie Dominguez confronted president-in-waiting Pat McQuaid at the UCI's headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland yesterday.
Although McQuaid described the petition as 'powerful', he said all lobbying should be directed at the International Olympic Committee (IOC), not the UCI. The decision to exclude two track events, and not the road events, was made by the IOC, said McQuaid, contradicting reports from national cycle federations, and admitted the deletion of the women's 500m sprint was a 'catastrophe' for China, host country of the 2008 Olympics.
"The petition is a very powerful statement," acknowledged McQuaid. "I'll make sure [Hein] Verbruggen sees it. He'll make sure the IOC sees it.
"It's up to the IOC to change this decision. It can't be changed by the UCI," he said.
"They [the IOC] came to us 18 months ago asking for the inclusion of BMX. We agreed to that and knew we'd have to drop two medals to accommodate BMX. We didn't make any decision at the time. We tried to brazen it out with the IOC, hoping they'd forget about events having to be excluded. It was the IOC who told us to exclude track events, not road, because the women's 500m, for instance, was only introduced [into the Olympics] at Sydney [in 2000]."
Kilo and 500 TV figures "not as strong"
McQuaid added that only 19 out of the 24 national federations surveyed replied, and told BikeBiz.com's editor that the UCI did its own analysis of the TV figures [from past Olympics], finding that the Kilo and 500m TT were "not as strong as other [cycling] events".
"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. If we ran the survey again, we'd get the same differing answers."
Continued McQuaid: "The kilo has a long history in the Olympics but it's a speciality of just a few, big nations. You can tell which medals will go where before the event starts. Lots of countries don't bother to put athletes in because they know they can't win. The points race is more open, more countries have a chance of placing. You don't know who's going to win. A few years back there was a rider I think from Uruguay got a medal in the points race, the first cycle medal for Uruguay."
Should cycling count itself lucky?
Although saying the responsibility to reverse the decision lies with the IOC, McQuaid appeared to be telling Reid that cycling as a whole should count itself lucky, when considering other sports faced with the prospect of total exclusion, such as archery.
"At the Singapore vote in early July, the IOC is voting on which country gets the 2012 Olympics, but a couple of days later there's a vote on which sports stay in the Olympics and which have to come out," McQuaid said. "Modern pentathlon and some equestrian events could be voted out."
"We know cycling will be voted in again but if cycling is the fourteenth or fifteenth most popular sport, it weakens our position for the future. We're lobbying IOC members hard to make sure cycling comes high up the list. Then there's a vote every four years to see which 28 sports are in the next Olympics and which have to come out. A vote of 51 percent of IOC members is needed for a sport to stay."
"Our concern is that we don't lose even more events in the future. Lots of wheeled sports want into the Olympics, like freestyle BMX and roller-blading. We're happy to represent these sports, it will make the UCI stronger, but what we can't have is the situation where we're asked to introduce new sports but have to delete existing cycle events."
McQuaid ended by saying that the UCI will not review its decision but said there was a small chance of the decision being overturned 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," he said.