diamond geezer

 Saturday, August 20, 2011

It's a big day in the Olympic Park. It's not as big a day as Tuesday, when the first competitive test event took place in the Basketball Arena. It's not as big as 50 weeks time when the Olympics proper opens. But it might just be bigger than yesterday, when the preliminary rounds of the BMX test event took place. That BMX-ing culminates today with the finals of the Supercross World Cup 2011, one of the International Cycling Union's major global competitions. You might have assumed that BMX is for nine year-olds on street corners riding some bike they got for Christmas from Halfords, but this is proper dynamic rip-roaring up-and-down stuff. The sport's only 50 years old - a two-wheeled version of motocross. In the proper-competitive version, riders launch themselves from an eight-metre high ramp and then race around a 350m circuit of tall bumps, banked corners and flat sections. Lots of them fall off. The winner is the bravest, most skilful, luckiest rider who overtakes the most.

If you want to see what the course looks like, watch this.
If you haven't got a ticket, you might well be able to watch this afternoon's event here.

After the Games are over, the BMX track will form part of a new Velopark to the north of the Olympic Park. Those with not-very-long memories will remember the Eastway Cycle Circuit, which used to exist on precisely the same spot until it was bulldozed flat to make way for world-class cycling facilities. Although London gets the crisp-shaped Velodrome as payback, those who prefer road racing have watched in anger as ambitious plans for the surrounding Velopark have been shrunk back. This Spring the OPLC attempted to downsize legacy facilities yet again, lopping loops off the road racing circuit by removing two bridges across the River Lea. I wandered into the View Tube one weekend to find the official public consultation unexpectedly underway, and staff particularly reluctant to admit that their new plans were in any way a downgrade. I merely grumbled, but sufficient local cyclists complained that the planners have relented somewhat. The road circuit will no longer be constrained to one side of the river, but will indeed cross to the parklands on the opposite bank, leaving more room for mountain bike trails to the east. It's all a compromise - every extra acre of bike track means one acre less of park or fewer houses crammed into the final development. But when Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park finally opens to the public, longer after the BMX medals have been awarded, two-wheeled visitors might just have the most fun of all.

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