By Carlton Reid, BikeBiz.com
The former president of the UCI, Hein Verbruggen, has told the Chinese cycling association that removing the men's kilometre and women's 500 metre time trials from the Beijing Olympics was "a good decision, even for China." The kilo had been in the modern Olympics since they were re-started in 1896, while the 500m was only introduced in 2000, but both were removed to make way for the BMX events in Beijing.
Verbruggen made his comments at the 10th Chinese National Games in China. The Xinhua news agency reports that the Chinese cycling association is still bitter at the UCI's decision. Verbruggen finds this bitterness misplaced: "That was a good decision, even for China," he said. "How many Olympic gold medals has China won in the women's 500 meters and the men's one-kilometre time trial? None.
"Actually it is in some way a good decision for China. You have now BMX developing very rapidly, and the world championship will be held in Taiwan next year, and I see the level of BMX here at the National Games is really high, you got beautiful facilities and you still get other chances too," said Verbruggen.
"For the sprint, Guo Shuang, and other young cyclists also made remarkable progress during the past several months, and they are all young. There are many opportunities for China to take a gold at home in 2008."
The 19-year Guo took her first National Games cycling gold after winning the women's individual sprint race last Saturday.
In June, the UCI was handed a BikeBiz-created petition of nearly 11,000 names, including cycle stars past and present, and luminaries such as Phil Liggett. Pat McQuaid, the current UCI president - then the president elect - accepted the hand-delivered petition at the UCI's HQ in Aigle, Switzerland, but said the UCI would not change its mind.
He said the culling of the two events was "a catastrophe for Chinese cycling." In June, McQuaid told BikeBiz.com, "Two weeks ago I was at a meal in China and was with the president of the Chinese cycle federation on one side and a translator on the other. I had a 45 minute ear bending. He'd somehow got wind that it was likely the 500m would be chosen. He was very angry. The Beijing Olympic committee is mad, too. But in a country of one billion people, they've got to be able to field cyclists in other disciplines, they need strength in depth, not just one event."
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