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Follow in the footsteps of your Olympic heroes

You'll be able to follow in the footsteps of Olympics greats such as Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton next year, as a date has finally been set for the re-opening of the Velodrome and the BMX track.

Team GB powered its way to a world-beating 16 gold medals at the site in Stratford, and in seven months' time the venue will come back to life, as Rags Martel reports.

Cyclists need £30 coaching session before trying track

How the new Velopark will look when it opens in March. Credit: London Legacy Development Corporation

Cycle fans may have to pay up to £30 for their first chance to try out the track where Sir Chris Hoy, Dame Sarah Storey and Laura Trott won gold at the London 2012 Games.

The 6,000-seat London 2012 velodrome and BMX track at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford reopens on March 4 2014.

A coached accreditation session will be needed to ensure riders have the skills and confidence to tackle the swooping Siberian pine velodrome track and the BMX courses, said the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, which owns and runs the venue.

The building of an updated BMX and road cycling track is underway. Credit: London Legacy Development Corporation

The hour-long taster session on the 250m track for unaccredited riders costs £30. The price is £22 for people with a concession, which includes the under-18s.

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Activities include a learn to ride programme for children

The array of activities will include a learn to ride programme for children Credit: David Davies/PA Wire

Plans for the venue include:

  • Learn-to-ride programmes for children who have never been on a bike before

  • Coaching

  • Major international championships

  • All-ability sessions for people with additional needs

  • Programmes for schools, clubs and leagues

Many activities will need to be booked but people will be able to turn up and have a go on the mountain bike trails, BMX and road circuit. Prices start from £4 for children and £6 for adults and bookings will begin to be taken later this year.

Cycle fans will also be able to ride out on a remodelled and floodlit version of the London 2012 BMX track and the 6,000-seat velodrome with its 250-metre track will be open "for all to have a go", the LVRPA said.

There will be taster sessions as well as a full accreditation programme taking first-timers to competition level. Riders can also take on five miles (8km) of new mountain bike trails, graded by difficulty into black, red and blue routes at the VeloPark.

The velodrome this morning. Credit: Rags Martel/ITN

They could also race around the new and floodlit one-mile road circuit, which is being built on the site of the former Eastway Cycle Circuit.

Unparalleled facilities will deliver Olympic promise

Laura Trott winning an Olympic gold at the Velodrome last year. Credit: Tim Ireland/PA Wire

Cycling stars of the London 2012 Games will be back at the scene of their sporting glory as part of the grand opening on March 14 and 15, as the grand finale of Revolution -Britain's top annual track cycling series - has been moved there for this special occasion.

The VeloPark, based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, east London, must cater for everyone from children to champions, according to LVRPA chief executive Shaun Dawson.

Around 600,000 visitors a year are expected.

Mr Dawson noted:

"It is iconic and sexy and where the Olympics were held. It will help to pay for the community stream (of programmes) but we need to strike a balance with the pricing.

"For people who have never ridden a bike, to those who are setting world records, these unparalleled facilities will deliver the Olympic promise of inspiring a generation," he said.

"Our ethos is to run venues that are community-focused and commercially-driven."

Sessions from just £2

The Lee Valley VeloPark will run sessions from £2 for club cyclists and £4 for individual riders from March 2014 Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

The Olympic velodrome and BMX track will reopen on March 4 next year.

A year ago, riders such as Dame Sarah Storey, Sir Bradley Wiggins and Laura Trott powered Britain to a world-beating 16 gold medals - eight in the Olympics and eight in the Paralympics.

In seven months, the east London site of their victories - now called the Lee Valley VeloPark - reopens to the public, with sessions from £2 for club cyclists and £4 for individual riders.

The Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA), which owns and runs the site, is billing it as "the world's premier cycling venue" as it boasts the 2012 velodrome, a remodelled Olympic BMX circuit alongside new mountain bike trails, and a floodlit road circuit.

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GLA Conservatives' recommendations for Lee Valley Park:

  • The current lack of profitability in the park's key facilities should be reversed so they can make a full and proper financial contribution towards the running of the Park.
  • The level of income raised directly from the park's visitors should be increased to help with the park's running costs.
  • The park authority should work much more closely with charities, business groups and other community groups, creating partnerships wherever possible and amending its formal structures where necessary. This should include exploring new funding opportunities.
  • The park authority should begin work on a self-financing financial model with the aim of ending the compulsory levy from local authorities within five years. Parliament should also legislate to permanently end the levy within that period, with or without the co-operation of the park authority.

Tracey: 'I see no reason why Lee Valley can't stand on its own two feet'

The Lee Valley Park is a fantastic asset and I see no reason why, financially speaking, it cannot stand on its own two feet.

Borough councils took over its funding when the GLC was abolished in 1986, but this has become an anachronism with bizarre financial consequences for boroughs.

For example the Park had 376,749 visitors from Waltham Forest in 2011/12 and the council contributed £224,309, making for an average cost to the borough per visitor of 60 pence.

Compare this to Merton and Wandsworth, which had an average cost per visitor of around £19.80. Merton had only 11,139 visitors but paid £220,206, and Wandsworth had 18,944 visitors and paid £375,162.

And in Hounslow, the average visitor cost was as high as £39.45.

Clearly this is an inequitable situation that cannot stand. The arrangement siphons off funds from boroughs where they could be spent locally and council tax payers could reap the benefit, or councils could cut their council tax bill.

For example, many of my constituents enjoy the emerging Wandle Valley Regional Park, and this could benefit from additional funds to become fully developed.

At the same time, this report shows that if the Park raised a little more money from its visitors, made better use of its facilities and explored new local partnerships, this contribution from council tax payers would no longer be necessary.

Therefore I am calling on the Government to change the law to end these funding arrangements and I recommend that the Lee Valley Park is given five years to become self-financing.

– London Assembly member Richard Tracey

Call to make Lee Valley Regional Park self-funding

London Assembly member, Richard Tracey today publishes a report calling for London boroughs councils to cease funding the Lee Valley Regional Park in five years with a view to making it self-financing.

The Park, which covers 26 miles from north east London to Essex and Hertfordshire, is part-funded annually by all of London's borough councils under a 1966 Act of Parliament, last year to the tune of £8.9m.

Richard Tracey is calling on the Government to change the law to end these funding arrangements and recommends that the Lee Valley Park is given five years to become self-financing.

Firefighter dies in training exercise

Library picture of the Lee Valley White Water Centre.
Library picture of the Lee Valley White Water Centre. Credit: PA.

A firefighter has died, while on a training course at an Olympic watersports venue in Hertfordshire.

Alan Soard, 38, was taken ill at the Lee Valley White Water Centre in Waltham Cross yesterday. He had been taking part in a water-rescue training course.

Three ambulances and two air ambulances were called, but attempts to resuscitate him failed.

Mr Soard had served for Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service.

Chief Fire Officer Andy Fry said:

"Our thoughts at this very sad time are with Alan's family and friends and also with his firefighter colleagues who were with Alan at the time he was taken ill.

"Everyone has been stunned by these events."

The fire service is working with Hertfordshire Police and the Health and Safety Executive to establish the full details of how Mr Soard died.

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