There are many great things that the Jewish people have contributed to world culture. Granted there are also a great number of things that aren’t quite so good such as a large number of 3-bed semis (master bedroom with en suite bathroom, bullet-proof double glazing throughout) that have wonderful views across the West Bank. Oh and Michael Winner. But we’re not here to talk about them today. One of those things that we can count as being on the plus side is the word Chutzpah. Well done Hebrew. Big tick, A-plus. Come and stand at the front of the class and receive the a certificate for having the perfect word for our times.
Chutzpah, for those unfamiliar with it - or for those too lazy to go pick up a dictionary or to Google it - is the quality of audacity, for good or bad, but is generally used negatively.
The reason this wonderful word has found it’s way into a cycling journal today is, of course, the news that the Tour of Beijing was officially given ProTour status yesterday. Given that the race was already in the ProTour calendar and decorated with an asterix that wasn’t as much there to denote it’s “as yet unconfirmed” status but more as a cheeky wee wink and a conspiratorial tap on the nose, the Tour of Beijing is essentially a black-hole from which no surprise can escape.
Departing and concluding in close proximity to the city’s Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium, the race will be fought over 5 days from Wednesday October 5th to Sunday October 9th.
Alain Rumpf, former UCI ProTour manager and current director of Global Cycling Promotion said;
“Together with the City of Beijing we have brought together a world class event team – including the organisers of the Tour de France ASO.
“The addition of the Tour of Beijing is a crucial step in the UCI’s development of a global cycling calendar, with the UCI WorldTour now reaching Asia, Oceania and North America in addition to its traditional home in Europe.”
Most people reading this will know that the tour is controversial for many reasons including the threat by teams to boycott the event over the UCI’s desire to ban radios from all races. However, the main reason that the race is courting more controversy than Lady Gaga wearing a hat made from Osama Bin Laden’s skin is that Global Cycling Promotions is a private company that is set up and run by the members of UCI itself.
UCI president, Pat McQuaid - who in no way has a financial stake in Global Cycling Promotions, except, of course, that he does - said that;
“Despite the strategic importance of the Tour of Beijing – which has already been highlighted several times – this race did not receive any beneficial treatment.
The licence was awarded to the event by an independent body after an in-depth evaluation of all the elements in the file. It is the result of the excellent work carried out by the Chinese authorities in close collaboration with Global Cycling Promotion.”
I don’t want to linger too long over the linguistic Esherism that is “Despite the strategic importance” and “did not receive beneficial treatment”. You would think that if something has already been identified as being of strategic importance then it must receive beneficial treatment. I certainly can’t recall Winston Churchill saying; “Well, Normandy was identified as being, strategically, the best place for the D-Day landings but don’t think for a second that we also didn’t give Ethiopia a fair crack of the whip around the panning table”. I wasn’t there at the time, though. So who knows? Maybe he did.
What Pat actually means is that he doesn’t want us to think - no, not even for a second. Put it from your mind, dear, valued
schmuck cycling fan - that just because Global Cycling Promotions has it’s official address listed as ‘c/o Union Cycliste Internationale, Chemin de la Mêlée 12, 1860 Aigle’ that this influenced the UCI License Committee’s decision to award the the Tour of Beijing, which will be run by Global Cycling Promotions, ProTour status. Not at all.
You at the back; are you following this? Good.
“This licence over a four-year period will allow for the creation of an event that is structurally and economically solid, based on a long-term project which will benefit the city of Beijing and cycling as a whole.
This first UCI WorldTour event in Asia will also provide the UCI with an exceptional showcase portraying its vision of the universal development of sport. In addition it will be a unique opportunity for UCI ProTeams and their sponsors to nurture their growth and further increase their visibility.”
It will also provide Patrick McQuaid, Cattaneo Rocco, Alain Rumpf, Alain Siegrist and Jean Pierre Strebel with the profits from the races over it’s 4 year tenure. And for those cautious Kevins and prudent Prunellas who may be saying that it’s not a given that the Tour of Beijing will make money, I say yes you’re right. But the UCI brought in over 11.3 million CHF from the 2009 World Championships. It only cost it 2.2 million CHF to organise and was the biggest source of income for the UCI in 2009. The Tour of Beijing may never be as big as the Worlds but I don’t think it’s too wide of the mark to suggest that it allow Pat et al to indulge in a few bottles of Bollinger when the mood takes them. And who says that Beijing will be the only race that they will want to run. India and Malaysia are rumoured to be next.
In the end it’s not really the chutzpah that leaves a nasty taste in my mouth. After all, McQuaid and the UCI for which he speaks seem to exist in a vacuum entirely of their own making. A private Walter Mitty-esque fantasy where rules are made and rules are broken simply because they can. There’s no conflict of interest simply because, well, trust us, we’ve said there is isn’t. So there can’t be. Geddit? No, that claggy, bitter sensation assaulting my palate whenever I consider Global Cycling Promotions is that we did nothing, we said nothing and we allowed it all to happen.
I suggested on Twitter yesterday that, given China’s appalling record on human rights, that maybe Global Cycling Promotions should consider Tours of Burma, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea or the Sudan. Now that would be chutzpah!