Ponferrada estimates €3m paid in falsified invoices for 2014 World Championships

Unpaid invoices still appear on the city's accounts after hosting the World Championships two years ago

Michael Kwiatkowski wins the men's road race at the 2014 World Road Championships. Photo: Graham Watson
(Image credit: Graham Watson)

Spanish city Ponferrada falsified documents, costing up to €3 million, to pay for the 2014 UCI Road World Championships, says special investigating committee.

The news comes on the heels of Yorkshire's successful bid to host the 2019 Worlds. The government is set to invest £24 million for the week-long event, with a large chuck going to creating legacy grassroots projects.

The committee in Spain's remote northwest city, where Pole Michal Kwiatkowski won the men's title, reported yesterday an insufficient budget. It detailed its findings in a press conference, estimating the costs so far at €11 million or £9.4 million.

"Yet unpaid invoices still appear," said president of the committee, Miguel Ángel Fernández. "We'll give everything we find to the court to investigate."

Head figures from the city and province of León attended the conference, except for the USE Bierzo party of the then mayor Samuel Folgueral.

The commission reported that Folgueral or the former head of finance, Emilio Cubelos, changed the names of some projects for the Worlds so that costs were paid by the city's water services company Aquona.

"The realisation of these works in the contract forced that company to make an investment of €3 million in improvements," said Olegario Ramon, representative for the PSOE party.

Ramon said the data came from the city council's chief engineer.

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The Eurozone crisis and Spain's economic woes saw the Worlds nearly cancelled and left the UCI to consider possible alternative hosts. It went ahead, but problems continued persist.

Amparo Vidal, finance councillor, explained that multiple warnings signs pointing to possible irregularities existed, but "they were ignored."

Ponferrada now needs money that it does not have to make actual city improvements.

Of its budget, around €5 million (£4.3 million) would have been paid to the cycling governing body to host the event.

Folgueral said in October 2014 that the worlds had an economic impact on Bierzo area was €58.6 million (£50.1m) and that the 200,000 visitors spent €15 million (£12.8m). The current city council disputes these figures.

A report released in December 2015, estimated that the U.S. city Richmond, Virginia, spent $23.2 million (£18.6). It stated an economic impact of $161.5 million (£129.8m).

Doha, Qatar, hosted the 2016 worlds last month, but has yet to release its numbers. Bergen, Norway, reportedly has a €20.3 million budget for the 2017 Worlds.

The Ponferrada committee said that it will work through December and then give its findings to a judge for further action.

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.