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Wednesday October 10, 2012

Make new velodrome a one-stop centre for several academies

Light moment: Ahmad Shabery chatting with Emma Nour Saffiya as OCBC Bank Malaysia director and CEO Jeffrey Chew
(third from right), MNCF deputy president Datuk Naim Mohamed (second from left) and Spectrum Worldwide MD Chris Robb
(third from left) looks on during launching of the OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2013 at KLCC. — AZHAR MAHFOF / The Star Light moment: Ahmad Shabery chatting with Emma Nour Saffiya as OCBC Bank Malaysia director and CEO Jeffrey Chew (third from right), MNCF deputy president Datuk Naim Mohamed (second from left) and Spectrum Worldwide MD Chris Robb (third from left) looks on during launching of the OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2013 at KLCC. — AZHAR MAHFOF / The Star

IT IS not cheap to build an indoor velodrome, which explains why only a handful of Asian countries have one.

An indoor velodrome, like a swimming pool, is one of the costliest sports facilities to build and it is the public’s hope that it is properly maintained and does not become a white elephant.

It took two years for the government to say “yes” after careful evaluation and deliberation and include it in the 2013 Budget with a proposed allocation of RM80mil, which also includes the construction of a new badminton academy in Bukit Kiara.

Cyclists in the country have been clamouring for a new track that is in line with international specifications.

The Velodrome Rakyat in Ipoh is a timber track while the Kuala Lumpur Velodrome in Cheras is a concrete 333m outdoor track.

Both velodromes, managed by their respectivey City Halls, are outdated as the current rules specify that world class races must be be held on 250m timber track.

This brings us to the question as to how it is to going to benefit the cycling community.

Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek got an idea of what to propose to the government after visiting the Darebin International Sports Centre in Melbourne.

The centre houses the Victorian Bowls Centre, a state cycling indoor velodrome and the state Australian football centre.

The velodrome, one of several in the state of Victoria and the second in Melbourne, has a 250m indoor timber cycling track with seating for more than 500 people and standing room for 400 spectators and an indoor synthetic bowls green at the centre of the velodrome.

It cost A$16mil to build and plans for the new velodrome in Nilai is believed to be of a similar scale and will be a joint-venture with Sime Darby.

Ideally, it should also be a one-stop centre for several academies, including badminton and cycling, while the private sector can run a driving range or tennis courts.

It will be part of a plan to develop the Nilai area into a sports and education hub and its proximity to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang should ensure that it is not under-utilised.

More importantly, it will be a boon to cycling in the country and help to further promote the sport.

Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) president Abu Samah Wahab has been quoted as saying that Malaysia could host a leg of the Track World Cup Classics in 2015 as the new velodrome is supposed to be ready before the Rio Olympics the following year.

If it comes true, then Malaysia will be the third host country in Asia after China and Kazakhstan.

Interestingly, it will be much easier on the cyclists chasing qualification for the Rio Olympics because it will mean less travelling time.

Participation in the World Cup Classics are necessary to have any chance to fight for the coveted spots at stake for the track disciplines at the Olympics and it is better for the cyclists to fight in their own backyard than travel halfway around the world to do so.

For the coming 2012-2013 season, track cyclists will be competing in Colombia, Scotland and Mexico.

The country’s No. 1 track cyclist Azizulhasni Awang, who reached the London Olympic final, said the velodrome would boost the country’s image.

“Local cyclists have been waiting for a long time for this as there is a dire need for the country to construct a world-class indoor track,” he said.

“I trained and raced at the Cheras velodrome during the Asian Cycling Championships earlier this year but the facilities there are outdated ... training is risky and can lead to injuries.”

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