Something missing in Minsk

Mike Tomalaris

UCI Track Cycling World Championships, Mike Tomalaris, blog, SBS, cycling
The Men's 50km Madison event of the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Minsk, Belarus (Getty).
Share This
+ Comment
0

Does the UCI have a promotions department? And who was responsible for luring the masses to the Minsk Velodrome for track cycling’s showcase event of the year?

The racing was brilliant and the elite riders competing at the 2013 UCI Track Cycling World Championships should be applauded for producing some marvellous and memorable performances.

In terms of pulling a crowd however, the five-day carnival was a major letdown. Whose fault was that?

With temperatures never struggling to rise above -3C, you’d think sports-loving Belarusians would have been tempted to make their way to the climate controlled atmosphere of a very modern sporting facility.

And therein lies the problem. There was no atmosphere.

A stadium with a seating capacity of just 2000 was half-empty for the duration of the event from the vision we saw on Cycling Central's live coverage.

It was disappointing to watch and certainly failed to send a strong message at a time when track cycling is struggling to draw international interest outside of the Olympic Games.

Now Belarus has never been a traditional cycling nation from what I can tell. So with this in mind, why does the UCI offer the rights for a city to host a world cycling championship if they can’t guarantee filling the joint?

Cast your mind back to Melbourne last year, when the Hisense Arena was rocking to the core.

A 5000-seat velodrome bursting at the seams with noise and colour was more like being at a 50,000 seater at a major game of football.

It was the year highlight for many reasons and those in attendance still talk about the wonderful five days over Easter.

Perhaps only English-speaking nations should continue hosting major cycling championships, for the time being at least.

Melbourne was a hit, as was the Olympic track programme at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

And what about the tens of thousands who braved the freezing weather at Louisville, Kentucky for last month’s Cyclocross World Championships? Every session at every event was sold out and the cowbells were ringing loudly.

This brings me to the general media coverage, or lack thereof, from Minsk.

While the front pages of some of Britain’s newspapers paid tribute to their gold medal-winning riders, the Australian print media seemed more obsessed by the latest chapter in the spiralling lives of Lance Armstrong and Oscar Pistorious and a poolful of Stilnox addled swimmers.

There were so many great yarns to be told in Minsk, the highlight being Martyn Irvine’s two medals in 60 minutes which earned Ireland its first gold in 117 years at world championship level.

Perhaps Australia’s lethargic attitude towards the worlds was best summed up by the reaction from Michael Hepburn’s gold-medal ride in the individual pursuit.

A member of the pursuit team, which also won gold 24-hours earlier, Hepburn crossed the line triumphant but from my observation didn’t really show the excitement or enthusiasm of a newly-crowned world champion.

Compare this to the British contingent, who were always thrilled at winning anything and everything, that feeling of success seemed lost on some of our heroes.

The Colombian city of Cali will host the 2014 UCI Track World Championships, so let’s hope the South Americans do a better job at adding some panache to an event deserving of worldwide recognition. But I won't be holding my breath.

A repeat of Minsk is perhaps more likely in a country where the world game of football rules and obtaining media space for any other sport apart from football is almost impossible.

Bring the wold championships back to Melbourne, I say. If that happens, the UCI won’t need a promotions department.



cycling central-latest /Videos

ADVERTISEMENT
PROMOTION