London cycling complex announced

British track cyclist Chris Hoy celebrates gold at Athens

British track cyclist Chris Hoy celebrates gold at Athens (Image credit: AFP)

The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone yesterday announced the details of the new velodrome and cycling complex - dubbed a Velopark - to be built in east London's Lea Valley. While the complex is part of London's bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games, it will be built whether or not the city gets the nod from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The cycling complex will cost UKP22 million to build and will include a 1,500-seat velodrome (which will be upgraded to seat 6,000 if London's bid is successful), an outdoor cycle speedway track, a 1.6km road-racing circuit and a cross-country mountain bike course.

Announcing the plans, Livingstone said: "These new facilities will nurture our current and future UK cycling stars and the wide range of facilities mean they will also provide wonderful leisure facilities. The Velopark will be built whether or not we get the Games, and will be a major step forward in the regeneration of the Lower Lea Valley."

Livingstone has pursued significant cycling-friendly policies since being elected mayor in May 2000, including the congestion charging scheme introduced in 2003 which is widely credited with increasing the number of people using bikes to commute in the city. Official figures for May and June 2003 showed a 73 percent increase in cyclists entering the central London 'congestion zone' over the previous year.

Cycling was one of Britain's most successful sports at the Athens Olympics, with four medals including Bradley Wiggins' and Chris Hoy's golds in the 4000m pursuit and kilometre time trial respectively.

"British cycling has shown itself to be a reliable deliverer of Olympic success," said British Cycling Federation chief executive Peter King. "But it has also used its existing facilities wisely, and this has assisted in the sport securing this excellent new facility."

British Cycling hopes that there will eventually be four indoor velodromes in Britain, with the new facility at London adding to the existing velodromes in Newport and Manchester, and plans in progress for a fourth facility in Edinburgh.

Bid chairman Sebastian Coe said that London already had 60 percent of the facilities necessary to host the 2012 Games, and that work had begun on an acquatics center and would now begin on the Velopark, which is scheduled to be ready in 2008.

Five cities are bidding for the 2012 Games - London, Madrid, Moscow, New York and Paris - with Paris and London believed to be the front-runners. IOC representatives are currently in London to assess the city's bid, the success of which is expected to stand or fall on the city's ability to solve its transport problems.

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