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World Track Championships - CM
Melbourne, Australia, May 26-30, 2004
Tales from the track
News and gossip from day 5 of the Melbourne World Track Championships
A 'perfect' world's, according to the UCI
By Gerard Knapp
As the final medal ceremony concluded and the sell-out audience's applause subsided, the UCI press officer, Enrico Carpani, told Cyclingnews the 2004 Track Cycling World Championships had been "perfect".
"If every world championships could be like this, it would be very good," he said. The president of the UCI, Hein Verbruggen, who was also attending the worlds, was also impressed with the way the event was held, the standard of competition and the attendance. "Yes, it's the same from Mr Verbruggen," Carpani said. "Perfect."
Carpani said the venue, Melbourne's relatively new, high-end multi-purpose Vodafone Arena, provided the both the competitors and the audience with an excellent environment for a world championships. It has set a standard for future world championships, he said.
The UCI is hoping to maintain the momentum behind track cycling. Next year, the world's heads to the soon-to-be-opened velodrome in Los Angeles at the Home Depot sports center. By holding the world championships in successive English-speaking countries, the UCI is looking to build the sport's profile around the world.
With Australia's ranking in track cycling, plus the sport's history in Victoria, many expected the world championships would match the hype that was being generated and if sell-out crowds was any indication, it would appear to have succeeded.
The next step for the UCI is to re-build the sport's profile in the USA, the country that invented the Madison. While the USA team only secured a bronze medal at the 2004 worlds and its only indoor velodrome is about to open, the UCI is hoping it will also be a success.
The Melbourne world's were largely underwritten by the Victorian State government and the Minister for Sport and Recreation, Justin Madden, told Cyclingnews it "had been a resounding commercial success. It was a particularly sound investment for the State".
The Minister, who attended several sessions with his family, said, "it's been a spectacular success. Ticket sales have exceeded expectations and this has really shown what a spectacular sport track cycling is". It was the first time the Vodafone Arena had been used for a world championships - the multi-purpose venue can also be used for other sports like basketball - "and it really helped showcase the sport to Melbourne and the world", he said.
Melbourne has put in a serious bid to host the 2010 world road cycling championships and the UCI president was taken to see potential locations around the city. "If we do host the worlds, I can predict there will be hundreds of thousands of people come out to support it," he said. The Minister was also aware of cycling's increasing popularity in the city. "In Victoria we not only love our sport, we also love our cycling," he said.
The sport's national profile was also boosted by the host broadcaster, SBS-TV, providing 16 hours of live coverage of the five evening sessions that were broadcast nationally, even into the host city. It's understood that the broadcaster's live coverage of the track cycling helped it win higher ratings than previous nights when it went up against the Rugby League State of Origin match, which is normally the country's highest-rating television broadcast.
Despite the live broadcasts into the host city, the crowds turned out and almost 30,000 tickets were sold over the five days of competition, with three sessions complete sell-outs. The Melbourne crowds showed great understanding of the sport and support for all competitors, particularly the young Dutch sprinter Theo Bos.
Many experienced cycling observers said it was one the best track cycling world's they'd attended, in terms of the atmosphere and the standard of competition as almost all medals were highly disputed. When the Australian pursuit squad crossed the line to take the gold medal, most had not heard such applause for track cycling in Australia since Scott McGrory crossed the finish line at the 2000 Olympics, when he and Brett Aitken won the 60km Madison.
The host country started slowly but ended up second on the medals table behind France with two gold, two silver and one bronze, but the revelations really came on the Sunday, when Cuba and Argentina both secured their first-ever gold medals at a senior track cycling worlds.
With more nations taking part in the track cycling worlds, plus the UCI's push for a year-round track cycling calendar, it would seem the boards will see more action in coming years.
Day 5 News from the Melbourne World Track Championships