Merren aims for $1.5m velodrome

Craig Merren’s enthusiasm to promote cycling cannot be questioned and having become president of the Cycling Association since February he hopes to make an already thoroughly well organised sport in the Cayman Islands even better run.

Merren, 47, is a three-time Olympian in cycling, in road, team and time trial events at the 1984, 1988 and 1992 Games.

“Cycling is in pretty good shape right now thanks to past presidents and their committees,” he said. “Today, cycling has grown, more from a commute level than for racing. We’re looking to build on that momentum moving into 2013.”

Merren was at the recent general assemblies at the Marriott hotel when around 130 Olympic delegates had a series of meetings and met Trevor Bailey, president of the Caribbean Cycling Federation. Merren hopes to get Bailey’s support for various projects.

“I’ll be putting myself up for re-election in February to continue on some real programmes and focus on junior programmes, working with schools,” Merren said. “I’ve spoken to the Sports Minister Mark Scotland about it.

“Parents are very reluctant to putting their kids on the road to cycle but there are other options like big parking lots, for example, and coming out for one hour every Saturday and teaching the kids, especially juniors from primary school level what cycling is all about and where it can take them.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be road racing because in cycling you have so many other disciplines, like BMX, mountain biking and tricks like they do at the Black Pearl skate park.

“When a kid gets into cycling, they can always graduate to a particular sport.

“The success of British cyclists at the London Olympics definitely inspired me and a few that went there, especially on the track. The Caribbean has always been strong in track.”

The Cayman Islands won its first medals in track, at the 1985 CARIFTA Games when Merren got gold and silver. That passion to promote the sport continues today.

Merren happily discussed cycling issues with Austin Sealy, a director of the International Olympic Committee, at the general assemblies.

Merren, along Gary Clarke, Barry Jones and Michele Smith, is hoping to get the support for Cayman’s first cycling velodrome.

“There are already plans drawn for that. David Dibben has them. Things have changed and some costs have come down but there are many things we can do today from a technical standpoint that we didn’t have some years ago. I think today it is very possible. Without land it would cost maybe $1.5 million.

“One of my dreams is to have an Olympic park to include an Olympic size swimming pool at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex. We could get funding from the UCCI and private sponsors. It wouldn’t just be a velodrome, we could have concerts there, parades, BMX races… It would be multi-purpose.

“This is what Cayman needs to be competitive looking over the next 20 years. We’ve been there before and we can get there again.”

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1 COMMENT

  1. Great idea and I dearly wish for the plans to come true. As someone who knows the Manchester Velodrome well I can tell you first hand how much pride and income that venue provides to the city. There are all sorts of events there and it caters from the youngest to the oldest. Offering courses in bike mechanics, events management, retail and sports therapy all in one venue at or close to the Truman Bodden centre shows a bit of joined up thinking for once.1.5 million sounds ambitiously low unless maybe it is an outdoor velodrome? Nonetheless, what a great idea and I very much hope to see it happen.

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