By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Sports cycling’s world governing body, the International Cycling Union (UCI), has just announced that the recently fire-damaged Velodrome in Olympic Park in Barra da Tijuca will be the site of the 2018 Para-cycling Track World Championships.
“The Rio Olympic Velodrome has the ideal conditions to host any international competition. We have been anxiously waiting for the news [announcing Rio as host city],” exclaimed Jose Luiz Vasconcellos, president of he Brazilian Cycling Federation (CBC).
“We have worked hard in the last months with the support of the Federal government and the Brazilian Paralympic Committee,” Vasconcellos added. “I am sure the whole of the cycling community will benefit from the opportunity we have to host such a big event.”
The UCI’s announcement comes at a crucial time for Rio as the city remains bogged down amidst Brazil’s political scandals, the city’s rising levels of violence, and concern over the legacy of the Rio 2016 Games.
In addition, just this past July, the Velodrome was thought to be seriously damaged when the venue’s roof caught fire after having been struck by a homemade hot air balloon. However, following the UCI’s announcement, former UCI-president Brian Cookson asserted, in an interview with the website, insidethegames, that the damage to the Velodrome was not as bad as initially reported.
“[The] damage was not as bad as some people reported,” explained Cookson. “The damage to the track itself was quite superficial, it was really just soot from the roof.”
Importantly, according to Cookson, Brazilian authorities have informed the UCI that repairs to damaged areas from the recent fire will soon be completed.
“We are assured by the Brazilian Government that the repairs to the roof will be completed in the next couple of weeks,” said Cookson.
“We are told the Velodrome will be back in action in good time.”
The Velodrome hosted track cycling events during both the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games. Its track, considered one of the fastest in the world, was built with a special pine wood found only in Siberia.