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Campaign to keep Olympic cycling in borough steps up

PUBLISHED: 12:15 06 August 2009 | UPDATED: 16:21 07 September 2010

Ben McPartland CYCLING chiefs are being urged to keep one of the showpiece events of the London Olympics in the borough. The Ham&High revealed last week how the International Cycling Union (ICU) is reviewing the route for the road cycling race, originally

Ben McPartland

CYCLING chiefs are being urged to keep one of the showpiece events of the London Olympics in the borough.

The Ham&High revealed last week how the International Cycling Union (ICU) is reviewing the route for the road cycling race, originally planned for Hampstead and Highgate.

But the ICU is now favouring a route starting at a central point and moving out of the city, after the example set in the Beijing Olympics where riders set off from Tiananmen Square and headed for the Great Wall of China.

But with the outskirts of London slightly lacking in UNESCO World Heritage sites to compare with the Great Wall, cycling fans want the race to stick to the original route.

The ICU told the Ham&High this week that a final decision on the course will be made in autumn.

Now cycling champion Cllr Paul Braithwaite is eager to start a campaign to persuade the ICU not to alter the course.

He said: "We need to get local councillors jumping up and down to keep the route here. This is London's games, we don't want to this carted off to Saffron Walden.

"I have been trying to pressure my officers, many of whom are in bucket and spade mode that we should not be passive and try and retain the route here in Camden.

"The trouble is, to get outside London, as I do most sundays, you really have to go to the M25. It will be quite difficult to do up the roads in time, whereas we have already upgraded the roads in the borough and we have a ready-made hill. You would have to go along way in London to rival anything that rivals Highgate West Hill.

"There will be plenty of prestige in having the event here and I think it is an honour that is rightly ours that we will fight for."

The original route for the London 2012 race was set to follow the course of the 2006 Tour of Britain, which went from Regent's Park, through Primrose Hill and Kentish Town, up Highgate West Hill and around the Heath in what was called the 'King of the Mountains' section.

After the event, organisers and riders including Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins heralded the success of the London leg of the tour after thousands of cheering spectators lined the roads to lend support.

Camden Council's culture and leisure chief Cllr Flick Rea said: "It would be very sad if the route did not come through the borough. If it was good enough for the Tour of Britain then it should be good enough for the Olympics. Perhaps they are thinking of the Chiltern Hills, but they are not exactly spectacular. I don't know the rationale is but it would be very disappointing for those people who were looking forward to seeing something on their doorstep. For a lot of people the trip over to the Olympic park will be expensive.

"I don't know if we can do anything about it. All we can do is wait for their discussions but it does not mean we are not going to be disappointed about it."

The Ham&High spoke to the International Cycling Union at its base in Switzerland this week and told the organisation of the objections in Camden to any route change.

A spokesman for the ICU said he could not comment and said a final decision on the route will be made public in the autumn.

He said: "We are still in discussion and will undergo a full process of consultation about any change of the course.

"After the Beijing experience we would like to have the start in a central part of London and move out of the city. In Beijing they went out to the Great Wall of China, I cannot tell you what kind of place they will go to in London but the aim is not to put the race out of the city but to have it end in a very special place."

The spokesman said it was too early to talk about where the route would go and said discussions will take place with the London 2012 organising committee.


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