This morning’s huge media fanfare given the unveiling of the magnificent London 2012 Olympic Games Velodrome by Lord Coe – the first venue in the Olympic park to be completed – turned the spotlight once again on Britain’s King and Queen of cycling, gold medallists Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton.
Coe, the chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) hailed the 6000-seater velodrome, with its curving roof mirroring the sweep of the track, as a ‘stunning’ building achievement.
He said he was sure the track would see some extraordinary performances which will inspire another another generation of youngsters.
Hoy, triple gold medallist in Beijing, who turned pedals on the boards for the first time a shade before 10am, declared it an “amazing facility, a legacy for the future generations”. He said, combined with Herne Hill in South London – now to get funding for much needed resurfacing – the future of track cycling looked great in the south east.
Over 400 guests had gathered together in the stands and they applauded as Hoy and Pendleton and eight of their GB Olympic team-mates provided a fine display of formation riding.
They doubled up in two lines, then side by side, round the top of the banking, round the bottom, and for good measure, staged a mock rush for the line.
In a stunt for TV cameras which owed much to the Red Arrows, Coe and GB team boss Dave Brailsford put their lives on the finish line, standing stock still to allow a flypast of two lines of GB riders precisely clipping by on either side!
The VIPs included Tommy Godwin, the 1948 London Olympics double bronze medallist, Jeremy Hunt, MP, the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport and the Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
Ross Edgar goes for a spin on the new track with British team-mates
Before the Velodrome got off the drawing board, architects Hopkins had asked for Hoy’s advice on how to make the perfect track.
I asked him if everything was to his liking.
Hoy, who was up at 6am to travel down by train from Wilmslow this morning, was full of praise.
“It is beyond what I was expecting to be honest. You know, you kinda go in there with your wish list and they have delivered on every single point.
“You see the artist’s impressions, you see the drawings and you think, well, if it’s anything like that it will be great. In fact, it’s even better than that.
“The outside – the aesthetics of it – inside here the track itself has been well laid. The temperature inside here is going to be maintained. The biggest thing is that, to make sure you’ve got a consistent air temperature for the racing.”
What specific details about the track design concerned him?
“I think it was decided it would be Manchester, Newport, Sydney, Melbourne type shape, as opposed to an Athens, Beijing, the long straights type of track.
“So I think this is a fairer track. You can race at the front or the back in the sprint, it doesn’t favour one particular style. I think it’s a neutral track.
“And for the team pursuit and Team Sprint, it’s faster as well. Very similar to Manchester. Slightly closer to Newport in the way it feels. But the finishing line is a little bit further on here. It gives you a little more time in the finishing straight to pass. And obviously, it shifts the 200-metre line, so it alters your approach to the 200-metre line.”
Olympic stars Victoria Pendleton and Sir Chris Hoy in the media spotlight
And finally, the toilet! Almost as an after thought, Hoy pointed out to the designers that the one thing a rider might need at the last moment before a race is to pay a quick visit. Could he have a toilet near to hand, instead of having to leave the track completely!
Yes, they said.
“Ah. It’s just down there,” laughed Hoy, pointing to the ramp exiting the infield. “The magic toilets.”
Has it got his name on it?
“There’s a special plaque, it’s one just for me,” he grinned.
We reserved the last word for GB team boss Dave Brailsford. “If you took the best bits of all the different velodromes around the world, put them altogether, this is what you get,” said Brailsford.
“The designers have been very open minded and listened to the cyclists needs, the air conditioning, where they position the scoreboard, pretty much everything really. They’ve come up with a fantastic venue. Really, really good.
“Another thing here is the infield is lower than at Manchester and Newport, and you can look across and see what’s going on, very important, from both the judges and riders point of view. You can see the riders all the way round. And also from the spectators point of view, brilliant.”
Open for business. Photos by Chris Catchpole