Cycling round

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

VelodromeI had such a good day yesterday in the Velodrome watching the Track Cycling World Cup. We had applied for tickets for the cycling in the Olympics, but didn't get any, so jumped at the chance to see this test event at the venue.

The building itself is stunning. The timber external facing echoes the steeply curved wooden track inside.

In fact, seeing the whole Olympic Park for the first time was a bit of a revelation. All the main buildings are now ready, and they are working on the landscaping, including a bumpy BMX track next to the Velodrome. I've been impressed by the designs of the sports venues which all capture the essence of the sport within. The only really dull building is the media centre ...

Chris HoyThe crowd of 6000 were hugely enthusiastic, but kept their loudest cheers for Chris Hoy (left) and Victoria Pendleton.

Given all the comments recently about the coverage of women's sports in the media, I was struck by the egalitarianism within track cycling - male and female events were given equal status in the programme, and the crowd gave them equal support. In fact, we have to thank a former Mayor of Kingston for that.

Eileen GrayEileen Gray CBE, who was Mayor in 1991-92, was almost single handedly responsible for turning women's cycling into a high quality international sport.

Eileen was a top class cyclist herself, and was one of the first three women to cycle for Great Britain, back in 1946. She then founded the Women's Cycle Racing Association and served as its President for 13 years. Ten years in, she broke through any remaining gender barriers and was elected President of the British Cycling Federation, which she also did for 13 years.

Finally, in 1984, due to her pressure, women's cycling became an Olympic sport.

But ever onwards - she then became the first female Vice Chair of the British Olympic Committee.

In the meantime, she got herself elected as a Conservative councillor in Kingston, and was a very popular Mayor.

Now you might think that would be enough for one life, but Eileen then did something that has benefitted literally hundreds of thousands of young sportspeople. She dreamt up the London Youth Games.

But it was more than a dream - she made the games a reality in 1977, chairing the committee for many years.

Each year, 25,000 young Londoners take part in the games, in 33 different sports. Teams are entered for each London Borough, and Kingston always does pretty well considering it is the smallest Borough (apart from the City of London, which doesn't really count!).

In 2010 Eileen was celebrated in the British Cycling Hall of Fame at the age of 90.

It's only fitting therefore that Eileen should be chosen to carry the Olympic torch as it makes it way through Kingston on 24th July. I imagine she will be one of the oldest in the country to do so, too.






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