As a person involved in the bicycle industry for the past 10 years, I was disappointed to learn of the Carroll County Commissioners' decision not to bid on hosting the Olympic trials for cycling.
I was even more disappointed to read Commissioner Richard Yates' condescending and uninformed response to a column by Brian Sullam of The Sun ("County's Decision Far From Olympian," May 7). It may be true as Mr. Yates mentioned that cycling doesn't have the media attention of football or baseball. But cycling is contested at the amateur and professional level worldwide and has dedicated loyal fans.
If the commissioners had done any research, they would have learned from the mayor's office in Hagerstown that 12,000 to 15,000 people attended the downtown finish of the Tour du Pont Professional Bike race there last year. The Southern Allegheny Development Council promoted the 1992 Olympic Trials in Altoona, Pa. They confirmed that between 75,000 and 100,000 attended the week of races. The police in Somerville, N.J., which hosts an annual Memorial Day race, confirmed they usually drawn 30,000 to 35,000 for a day of racing. (This year, due to forecasts of heavy showers, they drew only 16,000 to 17,000.)
I attended the Olympic trials as a team mechanic for the racers our business sponsored. We saw the excitement in the community as racers competed for the chance to represent their country. I saw children asking every racer they could find for their autograph or race number. One of the most exciting moments for any athlete is the opportunity to compete and represent their country. Witness the excitement of the Ryder Cup competition among golfers or the National Basketball Association stars forming the "Dream Team," or any person who makes it to the Olympics.
This could have taken place here in Carroll County. From his comments, Mr. Yates demonstrated he obviously doesn't understand bicycling or the opportunity that was missed to promote the county. . . .
Just when I was comfortable believing that sleepy Carroll County had awakened to the 20th century, Commissioner Richard Yates sets us back decades with his short-sighted comparison of cycling and tiddlywinks.
In deciding not to host the Olympic cycling trials, Commissioner Yates blew a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to generate revenue and exposure for Carroll County. He is correct in assuming that cycling is not comparable to football and baseball (so far, cycling is free of obscenely over-paid prima donnas, drugged athletes and greedy managers), but don't underestimate cycling's draw.
My family has traveled to Richmond, Lehigh Valley, Pa., and Philadelphia on countless occasions to watch the races. Each of these trips involved weekend stays in hotels, meals in restaurants and related purchases. In many cases, attendance at these events has sold out hotels. My family is looking forward to the trip to Atlanta next summer for the Olympics. The only event we care to watch is cycling and if luck is on our side, we'll have tickets. Had the trials been held as close as Carroll County, you can bet we would have cashed in our vacation days to be on hand. But Commissioner Yates chose to save Carroll County from enjoying similar revenues.
Maybe he should have checked with his contemporaries in surrounding states who are trying to sponsor stages of the Tour DuPont before passing on this opportunity. Sorry, commissioner, bad call this time.
Can we get the Olympic tiddlywinks trials here?
I appreciate the fact that competitive bicycling, in any of its varied forms, is not a sport on the minds of everybody, but then what sport is? High level, competitive bicycling is real, and does draw, big time! Check out start and finish locations of something like the Tour du Pont. Ask the host towns if they would like the tour back. It would be a small cost for an "evaluation" trip.
Poor Richard (the commissioner) and others are missing it. That Mr. Yates even bothered to respond (via letters to the editor) is an indication of the high degree to which he has been hammered about blowing this one bad. Folks must be burning his ear and mailing plenty of hot paper on this subject. I guess any of us would feel sensitive and defensive if we had made such a goof. On behalf of Mr. Yates (and others), the old truism is supportive: You can never lose that which you didn't have in the first place. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
I don't know how the pitch for the trials was presented to the commissioners, but it's obvious the presenters didn't know who they were talking to and they would have adjusted their presentation accordingly. Let's keep this going and check with who does get the trials in order to obtain an education for all.