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Is long track a shortcut to success?

If you build it, medals will come.

That is the message from Sir Steve Redgrave, one of Great Britain's most decorated Olympians. As Team GB's athletes stare longingly up the medal table, Redgrave believes British fortunes at the Winter Games can be transformed by one building.

He proposes creating Britain's first long-track speed skating venue and housing other winter sports within it, following the example set by the American state of Utah ahead of the Salt Lake City Games in 2002.

Speed skating may be a sport all but ignored in Britain, but Redgrave believes it can become the beating heart of a new era in British winter sports. Sponsors have been approached, we are told, and UK Sport is amenable. An embryonic plan it may be, but it sounds far more than a pipe dream.

Is it really that easy? If the British team, which constantly reminds us of the chronic lack of funding for winter sports, managed to build a temple of ice, will their fortunes change? How would it work, and what do athletes stand to gain?

For that matter, why target speed skating? Why not plough whatever funding can be raised into sports where British athletes are already competing at Olympic level, with the intention of pushing them that extra distance into medal contention?

At the moment, Redgrave's suggestion is just that. It is a concept in embryonic form, and it may well never happen. But if one of Britain's finest Olympians, the vice-president of the British Olympic Association, is airing the idea, then it merits discussion.

The long track form of speed skating requires a 400m track instead of the usual-sized ice rinks in which short track is held. It is currently dominated by the Dutch - if not in results, certainly in enthusiasm. Sven Kramer, the Dutch skater who suffered an embarrassing disqualification following an error by his coach earlier in the week, is one of the sport's stars.

When I visited the Richmond Olympic Oval several days ago, the crowd was overwhelmingly Dutch. The Netherlands treats long track as one of its national sports, and fans flocking to Canada have only one destination in mind: the oval.

The Richmond Olympic Oval speed skating arenaThe Richmond Olympic Oval, minus the usual army of Dutch supporters. Photo: Getty Images

The reason the sport has come to Redgrave's attention is that speed skating is receptive to athletes with transferable skills. Olympic cycling gold medallist Rebecca Romero, a former rowing medallist, has considered long track in the past because it suits her physique. The sport has fewer intricacies than, say, ice hockey or figure skating. Raw speed will be rewarded.

Redgrave believes suitable British athletes are waiting to be swapped - via a talent identification programme - into a sport where they can blossom. "We should concentrate on an area where we can be the world's best," he said. "We were not very good at track cycling until we built the Manchester Velodrome. There are people now who will never, ever get on to the cycling team but who would walk on to any other team. Why not get them to try another sport?"

Redgrave has in mind populating a new speed skating team with athletes from other sports, but his plan would revolutionise the lives of the very few British long track athletes already in existence. I spoke to Phil Brojaka, who competes for Britain but lives and trains in the Netherlands.

"It would change my life completely," he said. "At the moment if you want to train you have to move abroad and go to Holland, Germany or the United States, but it would be amazing to have a venue in Britain.

"It wouldn't just make a difference for me, it'd be great for the whole sport in terms of bringing other people through."

Brojaka ditched short track for the longer form of speed skating in 2007 in his quest to reach the Olympics. He is receiving funding this season as it is an Olympic year "and they wanted to give us that boost", but that funding stops next season, and the 24-year-old has one eye on getting a job at a nearby international school in order to prop up his sporting career.

As things stand, Brojaka may go from being a man about to have his funding axed completely, to a man setting foot on a brand new Olympic oval in his home country, built specifically to accommodate and nurture his talent. But, he cautions, simply building the venue is not enough.

"It's all well and good having a long track training centre, but you need the resources: the staff and the coaches. It wouldn't mean anything without that. In Holland we have highly trained coaches, highly trained staff, everything we need. Sure, I'd come back to Britain if that venue opened, but I would need that too."

Phil BrojakaBritish speed skater Phil Brojaka, who lives and trains in the Netherlands

Redgrave says UK Sport has pledged to ensure the venue can be maintained, if he finds the money to get it built. We must assume that this includes the ongoing provision of coaching and staffing to the same level Olympic athletes would expect in other countries, and not just for speed skating - if curling, short track and others are invited to the party, their support staff are going to have to come too. It is an enormous project.

The inspiration behind Redgrave's vision is the Utah Olympic Oval, built in the United States in the run-up to the Salt Lake City Games. That venue houses two full-size ice hockey rinks within a 400m speed skating oval, with the addition of an indoor running track along the perimeter, completing a technologically advanced, climate-controlled hub for both winter and summer athletes. The US speed skating team moved into it a year in advance of Salt Lake City, and have not left.

Should a replica be built in the UK, I wonder if Redgrave realises how many sports will queue up at the centre's door. Ice time in Britain is at an almost ridiculous premium - for example, I have watched women's ice hockey teams train from midnight until two o'clock in the morning on a weekday because they cannot get on the ice any earlier. Those people then have to go to work the next day.

If you open the Sir Steve Redgrave Speed Skating Superdome in, for argument's sake, the West Midlands, you can expect every ice hockey team within a 100-mile radius to form a disorderly line to get on one of those two shiny, new ice pads. Redgrave has the ice in the middle of that speed skating oval earmarked for curling, and wants to house both sets of British curlers alongside the speed skaters to foster their focus and team spirit, but there will be an almighty bunfight for it.

Though he hasn't mentioned them, the short track team would almost certainly want to be involved in a national winter sports centre of excellence, as would some figure skaters, almost all of whom are currently based abroad. Then there is the Paralympic sport of sledge hockey to consider. Before you even think about opening this centre to the public, you could probably book its weekly ice time twice over.

But any negative feeling brought on by the scrap to get on the ice would be more than outweighed by the joy most British winter athletes would feel at having the gift of such an enormous complex. To say winter sports receive a fraction of the funding summer athletes are granted would be to overstate the sum involved. These things do not get built for winter sports. Many organisations spend their time fighting to save ice facilities in Britain, and there is one curling rink in the whole of England.

Wheelchair curling at Murrayfield in ScotlandWheelchair curling, among many other sports, would anticipate ice time in a new centre. Photo: PA

Moreover, Redgrave's logic surrounding the improvement in Team GB's winter fortunes stands to reason. He said the British Olympic Association used to act as a "glorified travel agency" and athletes would have far closer bonds with rivals in their own sports than British colleagues in others. If British winter athletes met each other on a daily basis - the speed skaters maybe kicking the odd, errant curling stone back into centre ice while the figure skaters warm up on the adjoining pad - it would be hard to avoid becoming a cohesive unit.

But at what, and whose, cost? These are all sports whose financial challenges are many and varied, whose bank balances fluctuate precariously on the precipice, whose performance directors sleep fitfully and dream only of a title sponsor. Redgrave said he is starting to speak to potential sponsors, but Olympic speed skating facilities are neither cheap to build, nor run. Keeping 90,000 square feet of ice cool for 365 days a year is going to cost somebody a pretty penny. The results would have to arrive almost instantly.

I hope it gets built. Britain has nothing like it and the Dutch model is an enticing one. The climate in the Netherlands is nigh-on identical to that of Britain, and they have tackled the "we're not a winter sports nation" mentality by targeting those sports where the ideal conditions - and Olympic success - can be artificially generated.

However, it is worth noting that Britain's only gold medal at the Vancouver Games has come in another sport with no British facility - skeleton. And nobody has suggested building a skeleton track.


  • Comment number 1.

    Steve Redgrave's absolutely right - we can't hope to excel if we don't have the facilities to practice on.

    I've really got into curling during this Olympics and was saddened to see that the opportunity for me to give it a go in this country is limited to just the one rink in Kent. I would bet that there's thousands of people who would love to try their hand at curling in this country, but without the available facilities a very large percentage of those people will never get the chance. Somewhere in those thousands of people there could be our next Olympic-standard curler.

    It's always going to be difficult setting up outdoor facilities for events like skiing or bobsleighing because...well, we're a bit short of mountains that are high enough and the most important thing - snow. So let's put effort into areas where we can make a difference and think about providing Olympic standard indoor facilities.

  • Comment number 2.

    The more people like Sir Steve involved in the running of British sport the better; how refreshing to hear someone with such a passion and ambition to see sport in this country evolve and improve. The comparison with track cycling is absolutely correct. When Chris Boardman won Olympic Gold in 1992, most treated him as a one-off fluke of talent from a nation who 'just weren't any good at cycling'. Roll on to 2008 and we all know what happened, all because our cyclists had world-class velodromes to train in, backed by sufficiently funded coaches and supporting staff.

    Of course there will be problems with people competing over the right to use the facilities (should they be built), but surely that is a better situation than not having anything to fight over? One note of caution however when you mentioned that people will expect instantanious results; I hope people are realistic and sensible when deciding what those results should be. We would still have to play a lot of catch-up with some very powerful nations (Netherlands, USA, Korea, Germany et al), so I hope people won't cry foul if we don't bring home a stream of medals on the first few opportunities.

  • Comment number 3.

    Same as the cyclists did some while ago - a specialist set up will produce rewards. Locate it in Scotland where curling is most prevalent and build on that good base!!

  • Comment number 4.

    Hey Rumple Stiltskin, if you really fancy a go you should pop up north, we got loads of rinks (although the only one I've seen is in Stranraer).

    It is a great idea but I wonder where they would think of building such a national arena.

  • Comment number 5.

    How much money has the BBC wasted on covering the Winter Olympics? Yet again it appears to have been a jolly time for a large bunch of reporters from tv, radio and the internet contributors and so called experts, to comment on the inept attempts of Team GB in a variety of unimportant minority bores (sorry sports). I cant believe that anyone could possibly justify spending this money, similarly I find it extremely difficult to swallow when atheletes continually ask for more funding, have they not heard of recession.

  • Comment number 6.

    Personally I don't believe the BBC have wasted any money on covering the Winter Olympics. It's been terrific coverage throughout and myself and a lot of friends have really enjoyed it. Just because it doesn't appeal to everyone doesn't mean it isn't watched and enjoyed by many. I appreciate it's not everyone's cup of tea but that's the same for everything that's shown on tele, doesn't mean I go around rubbishing all of that just because I don't enjoy it.

    I think this would be an excellent idea if lottery funding could be used to help build it. It would have to be in the middle of the country though so that as many people as possible could have access to it. Will it guarantee success? No, but it will certainly give athletes as much chance as possible at improving. And as has been said if other athletes could be tempted across to winter sports and did well it will create more and more interest and more and more funding in those sports. Obviously it's in the very early stages right now but I hope this is an idea that gathers interest and pace.

  • Comment number 7.

    Covering the winter Olympics isn't wasted money in my opinion either. I managed to watch quite lot of coverage on the internet when I got home from work in the evening.

    As for an Ice Sports Centre - It sounds like an excellent idea to me. Lets just hope he can raise the money to get it built. Maybe the banks could divert some of their excessive bonus payments to help get it built?

    No? I thought not ....

  • Comment number 8.

    The concept of sporting centres of excellence have been around for a long time. I was briefly involved in a bid to convert the dome into the UK centre of excellence for athletics, providing a single location for all athletes to train and compete in, year round.
    I really hope this idea gains credence and moves ahead. It won't help the likes of Brojaka because it will take years of planning and building. But it will work as long as the lessons from the Velodrome are applied.

  • Comment number 9.

    Its a great idea as these events can be targeted for success. It would be possible to build a bobsleigh track in Scotland but the problem is that the cost would be far too great for the amount of use it would receive, hence why most bobsleigh tracks are from previous olympics.

    Andys45 - How about the money wasted on watching people run round a track, jump into sand or go for a swim? isn't that effectively the summer olympics?

    Any olympic sport requires lots of commitment and training and should be should respect, however many winter sports have a high risk element which makes them for difficult again. Watch Michael Johnson's look into downhill for the BBC and you'll see how much respect he had for them.

  • Comment number 10.


    I think you have are probably suffering from a lack of the Olympic spirit. I think you will find that the BBC team out there in Canada are commentating on the Olympics, not just Team GB. Just because either the British entrants are not medal contenders, or are perhaps not even represented in a particular sport, doesn't mean that those of us who are interested or entertained by sporting acheivement regardless of which bit of the world they come from shouldn't be able to enjoy it.

    Any why are "minority" sports unimportant? I would ask a) if you have ever seen and appreciated Usain Bolts winning races in Beijing, and b) the last time you ran 100m...

    Who of us ("us" being people reading an Olympic blog and therefore with at least a perfuntory interest in said sports) can fail to appreciate watching Shaun White's performance in the halfpipe? Lack of Brits in the final didn't make it less entertaining.

    And why

  • Comment number 11.

    Go on Sir Steve. How can we all help? We need something like Steve's Ice Rink to boost the trainng available at multiple levels of each sport. There must be millions of Sports Fans in the UK who have been forced to watch Curling because we have so few competotors in the more exciting sports.

  • Comment number 12.

    It's a very good idea for a couple of reasons:

    1) Transferrable skills. Canadian Clara Hughes has won 6 Olympic medals - 2 in cycling (which the Brits are very good at) and 4 in long track speed skating. There's no reason other athletes cannot do the same if supported.

    2) It's a sport that can be developped within the confines of a single nation (as the Dutch did at one point). You can't build a great ice hockey team or figure skating program without a lot of competitions. Even short track is hard to develop due to the nature of the competition. But in purely timed events, like long track speed skating, it's the racer against the clck more than anything, and that is something which can be developped even in a nation like the UK not known for it's winter sports.

  • Comment number 13.

    I saw that programme too JimClark07, it was on inside sport I think. Really interesting to see just how much those guys put their lives on the line as they try to achieve excellence. You come away with so much respect for them. There are incredible dangers involved and you think why do people from countries like Britain, who get quite minimal funding, put themselves through it? Because they are driven by their goals and want to succeed and they are willing to do what it takes and make the necessary sacrifices to get there.

  • Comment number 14.

    What i fantastic idea and as one of those who plays ice hockey at silly oclock in a hole and then goes to work the next day it would be a superb facility. Hopefully this would be in addition to sheffield ice rather than instead of it.

    Sadly though, even with Steve redgraves' backing, I can't see it coming to fruition as too much politics will be involved from sports governing bodies.

  • Comment number 15.

    Something to put to Olympic Park Legacy Company, perhaps??

  • Comment number 16.

    It's a pity it can't be built in the Olympic Park as a shell before 2012, then used for some of the sports sent to Wembley then refitted for this as a long term use. Would certainly give legacy.

  • Comment number 17.

    It's only recently that the US has become a major Winter Olympic power. For years, American success in the winter games was modest despite the significant winter weather that befalls the country each year. The world class sports programs in China and South Korea are also relatively young. That tells me that any nation can improve their medal standings with a strategic investment of time and money. The UK has no shortage of athletic men and women. Redgraves' idea sounds like a good one and British athletes who could not train indoors would always be welcome to train in the US and Canada.

  • Comment number 18.

    If Britain is to succeed at Winter Olympics they need the press behind them, and not just to damn with faint praise as Ollie Williams has done in his needlessly negative article. Steve Redgrave's idea is brilliant: with football costing so much to go and see these days, spectating at long track skating or participating at Curling gives more opportunity to young people to find something interesting to do. Look how the Manchester Velodrome has generated so many Gold medal winners to see how sensible a suggestion it is.

  • Comment number 19.

    It's impossible to advocate copying the Dutch model for one simple reason, "The Netherlands treats long track as one of its national sports, and fans flocking to Canada have only one destination in mind: the oval." That's simply not the case in Birtain, and no amount of funding will really change that.

    The overhaul that happened with cycling was far easier to predict simply because there has always been an established cycling community, it may be small but it is by no means insignificant. Would people actually turn up to watch an evening of speed skating? I doubt it.

  • Comment number 20.

    Fed up with hearing this Tory rhetoric against the BBC. I am happy with the BBC coverage and don't feel it is waste of time and money. The multi platform coverage is fantastic. I may not be up in the early hours but the coverage catchup on the red button is still just as exciting thanks to the BBC.

    What I have seen live has been of a high standard, particularly Ed Leigh covering snow boarding and Ski Cross. Nothing can halt his excitment for sport. There may not be many Brits doing well but it has been great hearing unbiased commentary on the events.

    In general the BBC is an excellent broadcaster, especially compared to UK commercial channels, and even more so than foreign channels. Would you see the Olympics covered better anywhere else. Or would the complainers prefer more of "Who Jordan Divorced Next" or documentaries on Gypsy separation. I think not.

    As for Sir Steve Redgraves suggestion I think it is fantastic to pursue a specialist centre for winter sports that GBR could really excel in. The Dutch have been brilliant for years at speed skating. Why waste GBR money on skiing in a country that isn't mountainous, and where the natives freak out at an inch of snow. Match the Dutch model and produce a team (Speed Skating, Curling, Ice Hockey...etc)to reach the standards set by the Cyclists, Rowers and Sailors.

    As for a site, is it not out of the question to add a winter sports centre to the current 2012 legacy? All sports in one place. Athletes transferring between facilities to share knowledge and coaching. But suppose that would be too London-centric and would upset the Scots.

  • Comment number 21.

    Without sounding like a pessimist, I don't think you can expect that the government to put money towards this venture, it will have to come from the private sector.

    How much as I love sport, in these days where spending is going to be cut on hospitals, police, schools, local government etc... you can't justify spending public money on this project. It has already invested 10 billion or so on just hosting the summer games... personally i would rather a new hospital be built.

  • Comment number 22.

    I think any suggestion that we establish one or more centres of excellence for winter sports deserves support. From previous responses it would appear that any ice sport facility would be well supported and therefore have some financial viability; if you include an ice climbing wall that would give an even greater client base. We could also do with more "snow independent" training tracks for cross country skiing, which would benefit both XC and biathlon - great cross training for summer athletes too.
    Obviously this costs money and I appreciate the current economic woes won't encourage investment, but there is scope to stop waste and get some real legacy; you might note that LOCOG are planning to spend £25-40 million building a shooting facility for 2012 in Woolwich - that sum includes the amount needed to demolish the same facility after the games, leaving no legacy at all - crazy!

  • Comment number 23.

    The proposed Snoasis development, which I believe is in Norfolk, sounded like something along these lines. Unfortunately this seems to have been 'in development' for a few years, but their plans include ice skating, ice hockey, curling and the largest indoor ski slope in Europe. Perhaps Steve Redgrave should approach them as they already have some plans in place.

    It would make a lot of sense to have a well maintained centre of excellence that could support short and long track, ice hockey, curling and figure skating at the very least, as all of these are events the UK could be competitive in (perhaps less so with the ice hockey due to the team requirement, but as the rink is there...). With some funding and some fast tracking of athletes from other disciplines this could work and produce a winter program similar to the track cycling.

    If an indoor ski centre of the right design were also built then there may be scope for moguls/ aerials/ slopestyle (if ever included at the olympics) to be developed too, as these don't necessarily need long runs (unlike for instance downhill). Due to the popularity of skiing/ boarding these would likely be supported by the public like the Xscape developments.

  • Comment number 24.

    Australia had a similar plan albeit with aerial skiing...

    As a nation they picked the winter sports that didn't require giant ski slopes or intricate facilities and went for it.. then they got athletes namely gymnasts and trained them in these sports..

    2 Gold medals later they effort is paying off...

    Britain should not be timid and should use the imagination Redgrave is displaying... choose wisely and plan well and the sports will reap the rewards

  • Comment number 25.

    Britain already has such a plan in place with skeleton bob. They picked a winter sports where they could build a start track and targeted converting sprinters into sleders.

    A gold, silver and bronze in 3 successive games shows it is paying off.

  • Comment number 26.

    As others have said there is an ideal place being developed which is the London Olympic Park. I know a lot of people will moan about it being in London at least they could convert a stadium once the Summer Games are over.

  • Comment number 27.

    The problem with the skeleton is that we're never going to have a full track in the UK. The start facility at Bath is obviously having some benefit, but it's only one part of the event. It's great to see progress in this, but it will never be an event that we can dominate due to the lack of home facilities, whereas skating events could be a real area of opportunity.

    Having said that, I think that it would be good if any such facility could include another starting track (assuming that it wouldn't be built near Bath and therefore could benefit athletes in other areas of the country) to build on our progress at skeleton.

  • Comment number 28.

    To those who say that speed skating is not a National sport I offer the following. Track cycling was the home of a few keen fans and dedicated amateurs until one key facility and team structure was built. After steady improvement over a few Olympiads (with a steady climb in status in between) the efforts paid off in spectacular fashion in 2008. Now, if you'd said to most people my age my age which country has cycling of any kind as its National sport the last one on our lips would have been the UK. Other examples would include the steady improvement in performance of the rowers based in Nottingham and so on.

    Also we have more competitive rugby players than any other nation on earth and have precisely one World Cup between the home nations to show for it. The number of people following the sport is no the whole story.

    The beauty of guys like Redgrave is that they have done it for real and experienced the difference between the modern approach to competitive sport and the previous Corinthian, "Tough of the Track" ethos (there; I am dating myself) that has hitherto been the state of affairs.

    The problem with the UK is that we treat the Redgrave's and Woodwards of the world as jumped up "Johnny Come Lately"s who don't understand "how things are done around here".

    Time is also important. The cycling dominance of 2008 was the result of a long investment in talent. Arguing that results have to be immediate is dooming the venture to failure from day one.

  • Comment number 29.

    Am I reading correctly that there is no long-track speed skating venue in the UK? Then again, I didn't realize how mild the winters were in Western Europe until I came to live here, so it's still surprising to me that the UK doesn't consider itself a winter sports nation.

    I'm from Korea, and we've had unprecedented success at these games in long-track speed skating. But we've been sending speed skaters to the Olympics for a long time; before the inclusion of short track, that was our one winter sport where we could compete. Taereung International Ice Rink, our premier speed skating facility, opened in 1985, to give you a sense of the time scale for converting investments in ice rinks to Olympic success.

    One also has to consider that skating was a popular winter pastime in Korea long before our first Olympic-sized speed-skating rink, especially before urbanization when the winters were more severe and most rivers and lakes would freeze over. We were never going to catch up to the enthusiasm of the Dutch, but there was a skating culture in place. I don't know what it's like in the UK, but any nation's speed skating programme would definitely benefit from skating being a widely-enjoyed pastime in the general population.

  • Comment number 30.

    Interesting post Brian about a skating culture.

    In recent years there has been a big increase in children taking skating lessons etc. but I think it's still very much viewed as a 'girls' sport in the UK. Also I'm not sure that the infrastructure is there to take people to the next level.

    This ice centre sounds a great idea. Perhaps you could have 2 sides to it - 1 half for recreational skaters etc. which will help to fund the other half reserved for elite competitors.

  • Comment number 31.

    Erm, you may want to revisit your second last paragraph:

    'I hope it gets built. Britain has nothing like it and the Dutch model is an enticing one. The climate in the Netherlands is nigh-on identical to that of Britain, and they have tackled the "we're not a winter sports nation" mentality by targeting those sports where the ideal conditions - and Olympic success - can be artificially generated.'

    Holland is skating mad, and not because of the Olympics. Effectively they are a winter sport nation as skating on natural ice has been a popular sport for many years. I've got a pair of my grandad's skates, which are about 70 years old in a box somewhere. He skated the elfsteden tocht in 1942 - look it up, the event has been going for 100 years. That is why skating is popular and why the dutch are good at it, not some manufactured popularity following lots of investment, which is what you and Redgrave are alluding to. A very big difference. On Tuesday night about 2/5 of the population watched the Sven Kramer disaster, probably less than 1/100 watched the champions league highlights on at the same time. I can't imagine that ever happening in the UK.

  • Comment number 32.

    Interesting to read the comments about the gap between building the venue and seeing the results - Forrad83 makes a good point about needing a bit of patience when any British team will face the likes of the Dutch and Koreans, and Brian, it's worth knowing how long it took the Koreans to get their programme in shape.

    TheTomTyke - Good point about lacking the same national approach to skating as the Dutch, but I'm not sure that fervour is necessarily vital. Skeleton fever didn't exactly sweep Britain in the run-up to Vancouver 2010 but Amy Williams still got gold. I reckon you need the right athletes and the right facility (granted, Williams doesn't have that in Britain but it can only help) more than you need that national atmosphere of support, as much as it does help the Dutch. Thanks, DERedcoat for your comments on that as well.

    FifthDecade - I'm really surprised to hear you call me "needlessly negative". I'm struggling to see how I can be more positive than saying, explicitly, that I hope it gets built. However, it is only a very embryonic idea at the moment and needs to be treated as such, with the full ramifications, potential funding hurdles and likely demands on the venue explored. We'd be fools to simply nod, say "that's brilliant" and sit back merrily waiting for the venue - and British speed skating medallists - to appear. As I said in the piece, though, I know it'd be a huge benefit to many sports in this country if it came to fruition and the funding existed to maintain it.

    JuneBob - good point, the skating culture in the Netherlands is certainly far more developed than in the UK and has been for a long time, as you say. I was in Amsterdam just before coming out to Vancouver and that much was obvious, as it snowed all week and the canals froze over. But while the popularity may not be manufactured, the elite athletes are - the Dutch don't train on natural ice (as far as I'm aware). To fine-tune their athletes they set up their programme and got the facilities, and coaching, right. Which is exactly the model Redgrave is suggesting.

  • Comment number 33.

    I think Mr Redgrave's vision is a ray of light on what has probably been a pretty dismal games for Team GB (Amy Williams performance excepted). If our nation wants to compete on equal terms with the rest of the world we need to put the investment into world class facilities to give our athletes a chance.

  • Comment number 34.

    Take some money from the absurdly overfunded laptops-for-kids £300m scheme and channel it into winter sports, which is providing £1,000 per kid for 300,000 kids. er £1,000 for what? A netbook costs £300 max and broadband is £15 per month. What's the extra £525 per kid for? that's £158m right there.

  • Comment number 35.

    Spot on Sir Steve - I'm fed up with the media moaning about our lack of performance but having known some past summer Olypians and what they went through I can only imagine that it is worse for the winter olympians.

    We have to face up to it - it is a PROFESSIONAL sport and and expensive one at that. Please stop treating our athletes like hobbyists.

    Here's an idea for you - all adult ski holidays in the UK should have a "Winter Olympic Tax" of say £50. I ski and would be more than willing to support something like that. Also how about Ingams, Crystal, Mark Warner etc sponsoring an athlete - if they do not already do so that is.

    I really hope Chemy does not throw in the towel and she and others get the support they so thoroughly deserve.

  • Comment number 36.

    Great idea and if anybody knows what it takes to compete in top level sports it is Sir Steve.

    Why not tap into a bit of skating history and locate a facility in Huntingdon? Good road network access as well as being close to the fens.

  • Comment number 37.

    Post 26 makes sense from a financial point of view but may lose support due to location. Maybe its best to spread our facilities out over the whole of the UK. Is the cycling centre not in Manchester. I would suggest a Scottish venue if curling is going to play a big part in this centre.

    I dont think we can be too down about the medal total when we dont have the facilities or pur any money into these sports

  • Comment number 38.

    An excellent idea! it is true that cycling and skating are transferrable and speedskaters do tend to train on bicycles in the summer months. Look at the Velodrome and the pay-back in gold medals for British riders. I am convinced that success can be replicated on the ice. As a Dutchman living in the UK, I can honestly say that skating is one of the things I miss most about living over here. It is a national sport, almost a religion in Holland (OK they do have a few more lakes, rivers and canals to practice on during cold winter months). Please build a 400m Olympic size speed skating track, and build it in Berkshire please, where I live !

  • Comment number 39.

    Rebecca Romero would be the first at the door to try out speed skating if this was built. I know she is very keen to give it ago, but just needs somewhere to try it!!


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