Scotland’s greatest ever Olympian has admitted he wouldn’t have been able to make the grade had it not been for Meadowbank. Chris Hoy, who now has two Olympic Gold and one Silver medal, has criticised Edinburgh Council for its plan to scale down Meadowbank and has called on politicans to let sports people decide what should happen to the premier sports facility in Scotland’s capital.
“If Meadowbank hadn’t existed there is no question that I wouldn’t be where I am today – or Craig MacLean for that matter,” Hoy admitted in a recent article in Scotland on Sunday.
“My big concern is that once Glasgow is built, Meadowbank will be demolished and the chance to keep the Edinburgh Racers club going will be in jeopardy.
“Without the grassroots introduction to the sport, there will be a whole generation of kids that won’t have the opportunity to try out track cycling and one or two could have gone on to become Olympic or world champions.
“And to expect a kid of 12, who is just trying out cycling for fun, to get his parents to take him through to Glasgow and back twice a week is unlikely. Today’s elite riders will travel, but what about the future champions?
“The future of the sport depends on there being a facility and I fear for the future of Scottish cycling. There is expertise in Edinburgh that’s been built up over 40 years and that will all be lost if Meadowbank isn’t replaced. But it is politicians and not sportspeople who make these decisions, and sometimes it is a shame that we do not have more of a voice.”
Chris Hoy started his career at Meadowbank and is still a regular user of its veldrome.
A parliamentary motion to honour Chris Hoy has already been signed by fourteen MSPs. “Edinburgh should honour his achievements by providing and enhancing track cycling facilities in the capital,” said Green MSP Robin Harper, who proposed the motion. Harper also highlighted “the important role that the velodrome at Meadowbank Stadium played in Chris Hoy’s development as a track cyclist” and noted “that without the provision of a track cycling facility in the city many would lose the opportunity of involvement in one of Scotland’s most successful sports.”
Save Meadowbank spokesman Kevin Connor extended congratuations on behalf of campaigners. “The Save Meadowbank campaign congratulates Chris Hoy on his achievement on becoming Scotland’s most successful Olympian. He is a great role model and proof of what Meadowbank has helped achieve.”
Campaigners today called on Edinburgh Council not to commit to the sale of land at Meadowbank in order to fund the stadium’s refurbishment.
Councillors will today receive a report from chief executive Tom Aitchison that asks them to consider two options, one for refurbishment and another for a complete re-build, both of which involve the sale of much of the site for housing and the complete loss of cycling facilities.
“Council officials have come up with plans that are out of line with requirements of users and the legitimate concerns of residents,” said Save Meadowbank campaigner Kevin Connor.
“Both options demonstate a lack of commitment to sport that flies in the face of all the pro-sport rhetoric surrounding Scotland’s successful Commonwealth Games bid.
“How seriously do we take any aspiration of success in these Games, and the 2012 Olympics, if we reduce the provision of training facilities for our current and future athletes?
“Even at its present size Meadowbank is often unable to meet demand. It is no coincidence that the Edinburgh area has produced many of the world’s top cyclists. Edinburgh’s own Chris Hoy, who was honoured last night at the City Chambers, has made it clear that the Meadowbank velodrome was vital to his success.
“The new Council has inherited a financial mess but it would still be a mistake for them to follow the old culture of selling off assets. Just as the Council sets budgets for the likes of transport and education, it must also make long-term plans and set aside an appropriate amount for sport. Such investment will pay health and social dividends that should not be underestimated.
“Any sell-off of Meadowbank would be scandalous.”
Edinburgh Council will consider the report when it meets on Thursday 20 December 2007.
While today’s Evening News front page would have us believe that the Save Meadowbank Campaign must be ready to pack up and retire, yet again, SMC’s response has been quoted out of context.
The Save Meadowbank campaign does not welcome any move to sell off any part of the Meadowbank site for housing. The Council seem determined to reduce the level of facilities, including getting rid of the velodrome. SMC is not.
Scotland will have little chance of combating obesity and other health and fitness problems if we continue to sell-off what little of our public land currently dedicated to sports use.
Edinburgh Council is putting on a reception at the City Chambers tonight in honour of Chris Hoy, Edinburgh’s own world-leading cyclist. Chris might be right to question the Council’s true attitude towards him. If they had true respect for him and his sport (one of the very few sports in which Scotland leads the world), they would not be casually planning the sell-off of the velodrome that was key to his and others’ success.
Yes the Council has financial worries. But the Meadowbank issue is not one they discovered last week. Proper budgeting is required over a period of years to ensure that rather than reduce the level of sports provision in Edinburgh, we increase it.
If Scotland’s capital city can afford £600m+ for one tram line, can we not afford at least to maintain and aspire to increase the provision of sports facilities over time? If not, then it is clear we have our priorities wrong.
“Edinburgh is a beautiful and prosperous city and one of the best places to live in the UK.” (Edinburgh Council) The Council should either revise that statement or revise their policy on sport.
A public meeting will be held at Meadowbank sports centre on Friday 17th of August at 7.00 pm. The meeting is an opportunity for residents, athletes and sports groups, to make clear to invited councillors and MSPs that they want to see all the sports facilities at Meadowbank retained and refurbished.
The public meeting is your chance to remind your elected representatives to keep the views of the public uppermost in their thoughts when the full council meets to discuss the future of Meadowbank at in the City Chambers on the 23rd of August.
Don’t let them decide the future of Meadowbank without first hearing your view.
Also, take the time to write to your local councillors before the 23rd August. Demand that they stop the plan to sell our Meadowbank land to private property developers to build flats on the site of the best used and best loved sports centre in Edinburgh.
Send an objection to the Lord Provost of Edinburgh. Find out how.
Campaigners today called on the new Edinburgh Council to learn from mistakes made by the previous administration and stop talking about selling any part of Meadowbank Stadium for housing.
This call follows a statement yesterday by the Council’s new planning convener Jim Lowrie who was quoted as saying plans for a new stadium at Sighthill were “dead in the water” but added “a lot will depend on how much we can generate from the sale of land at Meadowbank”.
“The previous council failed to consult properly with their plans for both Sighthill and Meadowbank,” said senior athletics coach Bill Walker.
“I hope the new council will learn from these failings and provide the Edinburgh public with what they want.
“A working group is being set up to consider all options for the Meadowbank site. There are no restrictions so we should start from the premise that the full site can be retained for sports use.”
Fellow campaigner Kevin Connor agreed. “Meadowbank Stadium is an Edinburgh landmark that is much used and much loved. Most people were shocked at the prospect of it being turned into luxury flats. There was overwhelming public opposition to those plans.
“The Save Meadowbank campaign has kept a low profile while the new council has settled in. Our position is quite clear. We oppose the whole or partial sell-off of Meadowbank for housing and call for public investment in a phased refurbishment.
“We want to see the whole site retained for sports facilities, and are not in favour of sacrificing the Velodrome or football pitches.”
Ewan Aitken’s proposal to stand by the decision to demolish Meadowbank Stadium and set-up a working group to consider a new community sports centre in east Edinburgh completely misses the point and shows he hasn’t listened to what thousands of people have been telling him.
That’s the Save Meadowbank campaign group’s response to a motion the Labour party will put before the full Edinburgh council on 26 April.
“The message from the public has been crystal clear. People have signed petitions in their thousands. They want Meadowbank Stadium saved, not converted into flats,” said Save Meadowbank spokesperson Paula Ferguson.
“A community centre is not what the citizens of Edinburgh want to see on the Meadowbank site. They want a sports stadium.
“Every other political party has got the message apart from Labour who by their very actions seem keen to commit electoral suicide.
Councillor Aitken has already admitted the council’s consultation “wasn’t what it should have been” because local residents and users of Meadowbank weren’t consulted prior to the decision being made to demolish the Stadium.
The council has always claimed it had to sell the Meadowbank site because SportScotland wouldn’t provide money for its refurbishment. Yet only last weekend SportScotland’s Chief Executive Stewart Harris said money could have been made available and the decision not to refurbish Meadowbank was the council’s alone.
SportScotland’s claim that they would have considered a project to refurbish Meadowbank Stadium has today led to accusations that councillors misled the public over the decision to close the popular Edinburgh sports centre.
Council leader Ewan Aitken last month told campaigners that SportScotland wouldn’t fund a refurbishment of the ground but they have since contradicted him by saying they would have considered it.
“One of the things they (SportScotland) made clear was that they were looking for new things,” Aitken told campaigners. “They weren’t going to allow us to refurbish things.”
Aitken wasn’t alone in this view. His colleague Ian Perry, who represents the Meadowbank ward, wrote to a campaigner in early February. He said: “Unfortunately the site at Meadowbank does not meet the specifications that are laid down by the Scottish Executive and SportScotland who are providing most of the finance. If we do not meet their specifications we will not receive the grant.”
Addressing last month’s Save Meadowbank public meeting, former council leader Donald Anderson said: “The advice that we’ve had from our officials is that a refurbished Meadowbank Stadium couldn’t meet SportScotland guidelines in terms of quality of provision it needs in order to attract their funding.”
These explanations have been questioned by campaigners following an open letter from Stewart Harris, SportScotland’s Chief Executive, who said: “We look equally favourably on new or refurbished projects.
“Whilst SportScotland provides specification guidelines for different types of facilities to all applicants, at no time did we indicate that the Meadowbank site was too small to be considered for redevelopment. The council however has stated it requires a larger footprint to update and improve the facilities currently available and to maintain them on one site.”
Save Meadowbank spokesperson Paula Ferguson expressed concern at the contradictory statements. “Several councillors have told us they were forced into the decision by SportScotland who have now denied it. Who should we believe?
“This whole process has been anything but transparent. We need a full explanation of what decisions were made, when, by whom and under what conditions.”