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Why a Birmingham velodrome must be built before Commonwealth Games

Readers' letters | Published:

Birmingham’s Bid for 2022 Commonwealth Games; venue for track cycling?

Jess Varnish: One of the West Midlands' finest cyclists

The bid by the City of Birmingham to stage the 2022 Commonwealth Games within Birmingham has been successful, this will be a great boost for the development of sport, as well as business, within the West Midlands.

Birmingham and the West Midlands, including of course the Black Country, has a large and very diverse community. Youngsters, in particular those from poor backgrounds who often do not get the chance to travel outside the area to either participate or watch sports events, will benefit by having some of the best athletes in many sports competing on their doorstep.

Many people of all ages and backgrounds will be inspired to take up sport for either competition, leisure or fitness. New sports stadia (swimming pool) or improved existing stadia (Alexander Park) will leave a lasting legacy.

The West Midlands has produced many very fine track riders over the years including, four time world champion and Commonwealth Games gold medalist Hugh Porter, MBE; the late Tommy Godwin; the late Trevor Bull; Trevor Gadd; Jess Varnish and Helen Scott, MBE, to name but a few. Many of those riders would have trained and raced on the outdoor track, Salford Park, Birmingham, which was very sadly demolished in the 1990s without being replaced. Birmingham does not possess a single-banked velodrome/cycle track.

Many supporters of cycle sport within the West Midlands are understandably very concerned that, due to the lack of a modern 250m indoor velodrome within Birmingham, the track cycling may be held many miles from Birmingham. Should that be the case, the negative consequences will be many including a great blow to the development of cycle sport and cycling within the West Midlands; yet another generation of young people from, in particular, the poorer areas of the community will be denied the inspiration to ride a bicycle.

The West Midlands will never be capable of staging world class track cycling (the Tour de France which obviously takes place on the roads will be very unlikely to be held in Birmingham).

The nearest (outdoor) banked cycle track, Manor Abbey, Halesowen, was built in 1948; whilst this track is great for developing grassroots cycling, the days of staging world class track racing have long gone. Should the Commonwealth Games track cycling not be held locally even the benefit of having competitors training prior to racing will be denied to Manor Abbey. A new indoor velodrome would help support old tracks like Manor Abbey and Aldersley.

In 1976 the chair of the West Midlands Sports Council, Mr Saddler, made a speech to Halesowen Cycling Club Members saying a brand-new indoor velodrome was going to be built in Sandwell, since then all that has happened is the loss of Salford Park. For whatever reason it was an empty promise.

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The five indoor velodromes existing within the UK work. They produce champion riders and make a huge impact on participation levels within their region - adding huge benefits to the health and well-being of the local and wider population.

The decision to hold the track cycling outside the West Midlands should be revisited.

I would urge all those with the power and influence to ensure a new indoor velodrome is built within Birmingham, to please act now to ensure a new indoor velodrome is built and track cycling takes its rightful place within the Commonwealth Games.

David Viner

Tustee Halesowen A & CC

Chair Cycling Section

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