Cycling: Cyclocross ideal for Winter Games - UCI chief

PARIS (AFP) - Brian Cookson, the president of the International Cycling Union (UCI), said on Wednesday that cyclocross could make the transition from the Summer Olympics to the Winter Games.

The 62-year-old Englishman, who defeated then-incumbent Pat McQuaid in last September's election for the presidency of the UCI, said in a speech at the SportAccord Convention in Belek, Turkey, that cyclocross was ideal for the switch as it was a sport that took place over the winter.

"In my own sport's case, I have publicly advocated that a discipline like cyclocross would be an ideal addition to the Winter Games," said Cookson.

"It takes place during the northern hemisphere winter, it offers equal medal opportunities for men and women, infrastructure costs to install a circuit are minimal and the first across the line principle is clear.

"And above all, it is a sport that reaches out to an incredibly wide cross-section of the population." Cookson, whose remark that judo could also move to the Winter Games was ridiculed by that sport's federation chief last week, said it would be a provocative debate but that sports heads needed to be more imaginative.

"It is right that the movement has an open debate about the sports and disciplines that currently make up the Summer and Winter Olympic Games," said Cookson.

"What is said may not always be comfortable but I hope the debate ahead can be open and positive.

"If we, as leaders of our sports, cannot think out of the box and have this kind of discussion in good faith then we certainly run the risk of seeing our sports stagnate. The world changes - and we must change with it." Cookson, who says his idea is motivated by alleviating the sports programme at the Summer Games, was lambasted on Sunday by Ski Federation (FIS) president Gian Franco Kasper, who said the Englishman was not acting out of the best interests of the Olympic Movement but simply greed.

"Well, I will tell you completely honestly - I think this is completely ridiculous," Kasper told the AIPS website.

"We have a basic system for our sports in winter - they are on snow or on ice. We don't want to include other sports, although they might be all-year-round sports.

"I understand Mr Cookson - he wants to be in both Olympics, with indoor sports in winter and with the summer sports in summer, and get the money from both Olympic Games of course.

"That might be very interesting for him, but not for us, for sure. We will be opposed with all means, that's for sure," added 70-year-old Kasper, who on Tuesday was elected president of the Association of Winter Olympic sports federations (AIOWF).