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Road To 2012
McQuaid Weighs In On Mountain Biking's Olympic Future

Words And Photography By Luke Webber
Posted December 9 2010

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President of the UCI Pat McQuaid has reiterated the importance London's 2012 mountain bike race will play, when considering the future of the sports Olympic status.

Speaking in an interview with American magazine Velonews, McQuaid spoke of mountain biking's status as being "at a level that's neither going up nor going down," adding "it's something that the UCI needs to seriously address in the next year or two."

As highlighted in Luke Webber's Olympic Myths feature last month, McQuaid sees such an address coming at London 2012, which will serve as key in retaining mountain biking's Olympic status.

"If mountain biking is presented in a way that is not attractive to the public and television then it risks its position on the Olympic program. There'll be another evaluation of that program in 2013, so we have until then to make mountain biking more attractive to television in particular."

Such a decision comes down to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who ultimately decide which events warrant inclusion to the Games - a key measure being spectator and television viewing numbers. And McQuaid acknowledges that mountain biking needs to change its presentation as an event to grow such figures.

"By its nature and its traditional presentation, mountain biking is the most difficult and most expensive to produce for television in the Olympic program. In Athens, for instance, there were 45 TV cameras needed to cover the mountain bike course. We have since reduced the distance of mountain bike courses somewhat, but it still needs to be made into a more attractive discipline. I have great respect for the athletes because it's an extremely hard discipline, but it doesn't come across on television like that. We don't want to turn into cyclocross, which is an attractive sport, but we do need to make changes."

Indeed, when British Cycling visited the progressing Olympic site the differences to a typical World Cup cross country circuit were obvious, with the majority of the trail on open hillside and only one short woodland section.

Such a course design drew praise from the UCI's Technical Delegate Peter Van den Abeele, and with the build due to be complete in Spring 2011, early conclusions could be drawn concerning the viability of Hadleigh Farm as a venue to secure the future of mountain biking as an Olympic event.

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