Opinion: Evaluation of the 25th World Championship of BMX, Valkenswaard – Holland.
UNIVERSITY of BMX
A few week after the UCI-BMX World Championship 2004 in Valkenswaard – Holland, I want to give my opinion on this prestigious event, which was rated THE BEST EVER (check out the WC statistics 1982 – 2004 and Press-release). Perfect in BMX in the field of organizing an event is impossible, but this came very close.
Before I do start my comments I want to say this. When I listen, read and look around me, I find people, websites and others writing how good everything was during the Worlds. Very seldom I do read (positive mend) criticism. So that would mean all is o.k.. Well…… I believe it isn't and hiding your head in the sand will not help getting BMX bigger and better. During the press-conference it was said that there was a positive effect of BMX becoming an Olympic sport: the number of licenses have increased with at least 10 till 15 % in Holland. I don't believe that was because of the Olympic status. It had to do with Dutch Old Skool BMX'ers that saw an opportunity to compete in a Worlds in our home country. The Olympics are still too far away to be of any effect in that sense. Also in the media it has to be announced big, that BMX will be an Olympic sport in 2008, maybe then the effect will start to show. A good marketing plan is essential here.
As “father” a Dutch BMX and on request of some people, I did write down my personal opinion in Dutch, exactly 7 pages on this 3 rd. Worlds in Holland. I organized the first ever outside the USA Worlds back in 1983 at Slagharen. I will try to résumé that document and still give you the headlines of my opinion.
Mrs. Terpstra, President Dutch National Olympic Committee (at the time) present at the UCI BMX Worlds. For the first time ever a representative from the Dutch Olympic Committee (NOC-NSF) was present during the World Championship on Sunday, at the Valkenswaard BMX track. President of the NOC-NSF, Mrs. Erica Terpstra was very enthusiastic and interested in the sport of BMX.
Nestor of Dutch BMX, Pieter Does started racing in 1979, at this time (July 2004) celebrating his 25 th. anniversary as BMX racer at the highest level (Elite men), explained to Mrs. Terpstra all ins and outs of the BMX sport. The pictures showing Pieter explaining all about BMX to Terpstra and the Mayor of Valkenswaard.
Pre-publicity of the event was kind of poor. Up till about 1½ weeks before the Worlds, some small article in some local weekly papers. Only a couple of days before the Worlds, articles in Regional newspapers, in my view much too late. The effect was again, almost no outside-bmx spectators at the races during the weekend.
July 17 & 19 th. Pre-Worlds. I believe it was a good think these races took place at the same location. All problems occurring could be solved before the World Championships itself started. With about 750 entries, the races were held on Saturday and Monday. These were o.k. events.
The Challenge and the Worlds.
The races on Friday and Saturday were run o.k. One feared the Saturday, because of the large number of entries for one day. No problem, 10 minutes after the scheduled end time, the races were done. My opinion is that there must be a limit on entries for the Challenge. The next day, Sunday was the Worlds with “only” around 44 races, starting early and all finished at 13.30 hours. This was too early, no good.
I know, TV was the reason why, but still .... this Worlds went out like a candle. While people were leaving the stadium, some Team competition took places. This was very poor organized, riders were even missing in one of the 2 races. One could have better not raced those 2 races.
Why does UCI take no interest in team racing anymore?
Not that long ago I presented my ideas about a BMX TROPHY of NATIONS (check it out on this website), UCI word was then, we do have our own new team competition. Didn't work, did it! Although racing on Sunday itself was very good, the atmosphere was not the same as on Friday or Saturday. Everybody looked burned out, spectators (the wave didn't work anymore as the days before), the announcers and even officials were looking forward to the end of these 10 day long happenings. Pity.
Looking from the outside in and later on hearing statements of officials of certain situations occuring during the event, I do have a few other remarks to make. For some reason, short before competition started, the UCI did bring in a group of officials that had to gain experience officiating during an event like this. The 2 head officials UCI (1 from New Zealand and 1 from Australia?) told the appointed Dutch officials to make way for these trainees. Without proper communication all of this was arraigned just fore racing. This way of doing did upset a lot of appointed Dutch officials and is in general not the way to go about with things. Bad organization and communication by the UCI.
Several Dutch officials even refused to work from then on.
In general there was a lot of criticism on the way the head officials were acting. Very authoritarian, didn't accept any discussion, made very strange judgement calls, like the one were a girl racer had injured here hand and could not wear gloves. She was disqualified for not wearing gloves in her ¼ final (meaning no possible title for her). No warning, no action by these officials in the moto's before. Several more incidents happened, better not mention them all here.
In short; if this is the type and quality of UCI officials to be active the upcoming Worlds, then we will for sure have a big problem. These guys worked like officials in the early '80 when they did not have the experience one has today in BMX. Besides that, why appointing officials from those countries, while in Europe with its 20+ Nations and over 25 years of experience in BMX, we do have outstanding official running around? Saves expenses too.
Normally at the end of a race day or beginning of a new race day, head officials talk with their officials, motivate them, evaluate what went wrong, what could be better etc. They are team players. Nothing of all of this happened with the UCI officials and the Dutch World Officials. Bad communication.
One more report in this field. The “parc-fermé” crew was confronted with an Australian UCI Official (on the race day) telling them what had to be changed NOW in and around the “parc- fermé” area. Caravans had to be moved etc.,etc. Non of the Dutch officials were properly introduced to the man and finally they did not react in any way on what this man had said. The guy went away and never has been seen by them after that, during the weekend. What was the purpose of all of that? Trying to screw up things? Crazy situation which should not have been possible to occur. Hopefully UCI learns from this?
Speakers and presentation of the Worlds
For many years now the way speakers do operate is the same. They bring an eye witness report of the races. This is in fact what speakers/reporters do, when they report for radio. Besides that, just mentioning names and numbers for a whole day, doesn't make BMX racing any interesting. The speakers do use there voices in an extreme way, resulting in almost no voice left at the end of the day.
With all respect for the present speakers, something must change here, working towards the Olympics. Can you imagine a speaker in action at the Olympics, the same way as at this Worlds? I don't blame the speakers, they just do there very best. The National federations and/or the UCI should get involved here and start special training clinics for International speakers. More background info on riders and such, interviews with riders and others, think of many more ways to make announcing a profession. A lot of work to do in this field.
Changing the present organization format.
Its 4 year from the 2008 Beijing – China Olympic Games, were BMX will be an Olympic discipline. Working towards these Olympics, BMX must work on its IMAGE hard ! Even today, journalist did write in their stories about the 2004 Worlds, BMX has an image problem, adults racing children's type bikes . This is also caused because BMX events do have youngsters of 5 year old racing as well as adults.
NOW is the time to change this format, specially at International competition and for sure at World Cup-Super Cross events as well as at Continental and World-Championships.
Separate Challenge and Championship classes.>
Since numbers are increasing, specially when a Worlds is organized in Europe (easy and not expensive for many Europeans to travel to the Worlds), it is necessary to separate the Challenge classes from the Championship classes. Also to give the sport an adult IMAGE, only adult riders should be racing during the Worlds weekend. All of this is very easy to realize even taking in consideration the budgets needed to organize a Worlds Championship event.
As in Valkenswaard, on a certain weekend one can organize the World Challenge, an at least 2 day event (Saturday/Sunday). The weekend right after this Challenge Weekend, one could organize, at the same location, the UCI- BMX World Championships. Practise all day Friday and Saturday and competition on the Sunday only (Elite Cruiser, Elite men / women and Junior men / women).
By organizing it this way at the same location, organizer will still has his revenues (money is an important topic). The Challenge event at the same time is a warming up for the organizer to make the Worlds, a week later, as perfect as possible. It's less stress for all officials involved and everybody can be well rested for the Worlds and give it its best. Specially for the PRESS people, TV and who else more, the World Championship is then a transparent event for them: Junior men and women, Elite cruiser and Elite men and women.
Because of the fact that there is more time during the day of the World Championship, more attention for interviews, shows among others as well as TV registration and so on. All attention should be focussed on getting “outside BMX people” involved and getting them to the track to watch. Racing from 10 o'clock on till about 16.00 hours, with the accent for out-side BMX people for the ¼, ½ and finals (13.30 – 16.00 hours including interview etc.). Presentation of awards on the track (preferable) as well as the closing ceremony.
New impulses should be given to the organization of a World Championship by, for instance a professional presentation of all the World competition participants, a professional organized Team Competition for NATIONAL TEAMS and FACTORY TEAMS.
There are so many things to think off, be creative!
The Worlds BMX track
Personally I believe that the Valkenswaard track came very close to a track that is demanding, needs technical skills, is spectacular and still kind of safe (BMX is a contact sport, accidents will happen). Only thing that should be regulated is the length of the race. Depending on the lay-out of a track, it should take the fastest riders at least 40 seconds from start to finish. Last year Australia was about 30 seconds, here in Valkenswaard it was about 35 seconds, to get a good race were also endurance-stamina and power comes in more, at least a 40 second race track should be built (approx. 400 metres. As the rule book says, Valkenswaard 350+).
A down hill track (and I am not talking about a Woodward like track, but a normal BMX track – downhill), which up till now never has been used for a World Championship, could be over 500 metres, as long as 40 seconds is the limit in time! I am 100% sure it will bring somewhat more excitement into racing.
Transponders (the timing and registration system of AMB).
I was very surprised to read in an announcement that during the UCI Convention, Mr. Ryan Kramer (USA) would present and demonstrate the AMB timing and registration system, working with transponders. Abe Schneider told me, we have something new, the results and time will be shown on the scoring board on the track. Dear friends, something that amazes me all the time: people inventing existing and already tried experimetns all over again!!!
It was in 1995 that I introduced the AMB timing and registration system for the first time at the UCI – BMX World Cup events. We used the system till 1997 and the last World Cup here in Valkenswaard we did have it almost perfect: a scoring board with results showing and so on. Back then we did have a TV registration as well and they used the scoring board in their TV show.
It was disappointing to find out that the scoring board did NOT show any result or lap-time. It was a waist of time, money and energy to sent Mr. Kramer over to Holland to explain about this AMB system: The head office of AMB is in Holland, they could have taken care of things with less expences. Anyway, I was glad to see that UCI is using my original idea to start working with transponders again, but I would advice them, to use the system at its fullest, SO… with scoring board, showing results, average speed and all. Specially for TV registration this gives an extra dimension for the people watching TV (think of speed skating, 2 guys on the ice! The lap time makes it even more interesting and exiting).
False start signal.
While watching the Worlds on TV, I noticed several riders pulling back from the gate while the gate was still in upright position and the lights not yet on green. I think that besides a timing and registration system, an electronically handled starting gate, now also a false start installation should be put in place on the gate. Pulling back or lifting the bike on the gate before the green light is on, will tricker off a red light just above the rider (this has been done before, so.. the know how is there). This all to make it fair for all riders at the gate. During the event I learned that UCI officials had pronounced earlier, that penalties would be given to those who would start false! Never any penalty was given.
Qualifying for the Olympics, hot item.
During the UCI – BMX Convention a lot of time was spent on a discussion for a qualifying system for the 2008 Olympic Games. Only 32 Elite men and 16 Elite women will be allowed to compete in the 2008 Olympics. How are you going to select these riders? Again, I think this is kind of easy this first time. Simple is beautiful!
As UCI I would use the World Nation Ranking and for Elite men I would take the top 32 Countries and ask those countries to sent their best rider and for instance for each rider a back-up rider, in order to have 32 riders at all times if somebody gets ill or so. In Elite women class the same procedure: top 16 Nations in the World Nation Ranking will be allowed to sent their best riders and 1 spare riders. Doing it this way, you have 32 countries present in Elite men class and 16 in Elite womens class. Working towards the Olympics, riders and National organisations will prepare for the best, meaning they will probably start National Teams and sent them to all races counting for points in their country and continent. This means really the strongest/fastest riders will be in the top of the ranking and so will their country. It adds extra flavour to the competition I guess and ……the strongest countries will be present at the Olympics. This might even be a reason to start World Cup events per continent again. And again : “simple is beautiful”, but time is running, act quickly, swift action is needed here.
Actual racing at the Olympics itself !
This will be a hard nut to crack. How can you make BMX racing attractive and spectacular enough with only 32 men and 16 women racing? Elite men when using our normal way of racing, only 15 races in total.
Elite women only 8 races in total. After each race at least 15 minute rest for riders means that in about 2 hours the entire Elite men program will be finished. Elite women will take about 1 ½ hour max. to complete the competition.
In order to fill the gapes, may do BMX Freestyle competition or demo's ? The BMX race track should be at least 40 seconds for fastest men, should be demanding, fast, spectacular, but safe, not dangerous. I heard people talk about building a track inside a Cycle velodrome. I would never advice that. In Holland we knew the Apeldoorn Cycle club with such an accommodation. Didn't work too well. When a track is built lets say a week in advance of the actual event, it should be built by specialists, meaning is should be built perfectly. A bumpy track, not tried out well is a killer for the sport.
BMX Board of Directors.
Also within the UCI and specially the BMX section, things are changing. Since BMX became an Olympic sport, more and more people showing interest in de sport, want to get involved in BMX (nice job!). The original I.BMX.F. board members are slowly moving away from UCI-BMX. Last year Mr. M. Baal was announced President of the BMX section. He is from cycling road racing. In due time Abe Schneider and Bob Tedesco will be in for a re-election and my guess is that there will be changes here too: more road people will come in.
I really wonder if BMX can holt its grounds, when all non-original BMX officials are taking over. The heart and soul is taken out of the leading group of people and that's not good.
Furthermore I do notice by talking to many people involved in National and International organisations, committees and such, that within the UCI not much is left of DEMOCRATIE. Just a handful of people are now deciding on topics BMX concerning. That is disturbing news! It looks like we (BMX) are there for the UCI instead of the other way around (chicken and egg situation). Top riders in Championship classes should be consulted in a regular way about their feelings, ideas and suggestions. This happens less and less. Is there any serious rider representation within UCI that means something? For several years Mrs.Bianca Tenniglo a former Elite BMX racer from Holland had been on the BMX Committee for that purpose. Almost nobody in the world of BMX knew that she was their representative (not her fault). So, were o go to with your ideas and suggestions. Communication ........what?
So, a lot of things to think about and probably to do something about. Good luck. Anyway, the 2004 UCI-BMX Worlds was a success thanks to the organiser and all his volunteer workers. Job well done guys!
Opinion on the BMX Worlds 2004, follow-up.
One of the hot items in August, was my article in the “Opinion section” on the BMX Worlds 2004 in Valkenswaard Holland. A very serious and emotional discussion started right after the article was published.
Reactions from prominent riders, specially from Europe and the USA, people from the media and even reactions from the UCI came in. During the Worlds I learned that there was a lot of frustration by the riders about not having a serious communication with the UCI about BMX in all its details. The red line in my article concerned “communications”, because of that.
Well, the final conclusion is now, that the article had its effects. At this moment plans are in the making of having a meeting between the UCI, riders, people from the industry and media during the Las Vegas (USA) bicycle show. Meaning: goal reached !!!! I hope some good things will come out of this meeting, anyway good luck to you all.
Press Release: Inside BMX World
UNIVERSITY of BMX and their `World Championship Quality Survey`.
Waalre-Holland, July 28th 2004.
Dear friends in BMX,
Each year, after the Worlds, the University of BMX releases the results of the “World Championship Quality Survey”.
A selective group of international people (riders, officials, organizers and guests) do give their opinion on the World Championship run that year (check out the enclosed overall historical overview).
Almost unanimously all concerned rated this UCI - Worlds as THE BEST EVER , with now the I.BMX.F.-FIAC Worlds 1991 at Sandnes - Norway as 2 nd. best and the first ever out-side the USA , I.BMX.F Worlds 1983 at Slagharen-Holland as 3 rd. best.
As you can see by the overall historical overview, not all World Championships had the basic standard of organization. Hopefully this World-Championship has set a minimum quality standard of what a Worlds should look like, in all fields concerned (infra-structure, racing technical, facilities for spectators, press, TV and so on). A great challenge for future World Championship organizers indeed.
Personally I am looking forward to the 2005 UCI BMX World Championships at BERCY - PALAIS OMNISPORT de PARIS – France. A fantastic indoor accommodation in which we ran BMX race in the early '80 ‘s. Besides BMX, also indoor Moto-Cross events take place there as well as indoor surfing (a complete water basin on the main floor with large windmills). Around 11.000 seats are available for spectators. Let's meet again at the 2005 UCI BMX World Championship at Bercy-Paris , France .