From Phil Liggett Reckons MTB and BMX are an Olympic joke

by Mark Alker 29

From our tarmac brethren at

Veteran cycling commentator Phil Liggett has risked the wrath of BMX and mountain biking fans by suggesting that those events should not be at the Olympics.

Speaking to the Australian newspaper the Herald Sun, Liggett criticised changes to the track programme introduced by the IOC and UCI that result in five events in the Velodrome for both men and women, with the individual pursuit one of those to be ditched: “It is absolutely disgraceful what they have done,” he said. “They have devastated the track with the new events and taking out the iconic events of the Olympics,” Liggett said.

They have taken out the exciting and interesting events – the individual pursuit, the 1km time trial and the women’s 500m time trial, and put in an omnium that no one will ever understand. There is only one rider from each country in the omnium and they are a jack of all trades and master of none.”

“Nations and riders complained, but the UCI wanted equality. They got that but they also took out women’s events. They introduced BMX. Great, but I am sure [Olympics founder] Pierre de Coubertin would have laughed his head off if he found out it was an Olympic discipline.

“It might be exciting but we are talking the Olympic Games. We have never had a good mountain biking event. Thousands will watch them but they are not Olympic gold medal events.

“They weren’t meant to be in the Olympic Games.”

Singletrack Says..

Regardless of opinion on how watchable XC mountain bike racing is, that’s still a bit of a silly way to express frustration at the removal of some of the most exciting track events from the Olympics (see Phil, we actually agree with you on this). The decision to drop some track events was taken jointly by the IOC and UCI. Turning inwards and annoying thousands of mountain bikers and BMXers by suggesting their inclusion in the Olympics is a joke is about the worst way of tackling a problem brought on by poor choices made by the IOC and UCI and does nothing for general uplift in interest in cycling in the UK that we are experiencing right now. It’s also extremely insulting to the riders and coaches who have worked so hard to be at these games from both disciplines. And as for the ‘They weren’t meant to be in the Olympic Games.’ it’s barely worth the time to point out how daft that statement really is.

We understand the sentiment Phil, but you’ve expressed it very badly.

What do you guys think?

Comments (29)

  1. Stupid thing to say – just ’cause he’s a fan of track racing.
    I find it really boring myself and won’t be watching any. Road racing and XC will have me glued to the TV, though.

    I’m afraid I kind of agree about BMX…

  2. He also needs to remember that road and track cycling isn’t that attractive to a younger and less well off audience, BMX and even MTB are both exciting to watch and inclusive, I’d personally like to see it taken further and DH included.

  3. British cycling has a wealth of talent. Where were the national headlines when Peaty, Atherton and Hart won their World Championships? Of course we should be introducing more variety into Olympic cycling. It’s not just about skinny tyres.

  4. He also said disciplines like BMX and mountain biking simply should never be in the Olympics, given they were not the pinnacle of their sport.

    But surely that isn’t true. I can’t think of another BMX or Mountain Bike XC Race which is more prestigious.

    He’s wrong about people not understanding the Omnium too. All that needs to be said is that it’s the Decathlon equivalent and everyone will know instantly what it’s about.

    Surely taking a pot shot at football, tennis, rhythmic gymnastics, synchronised swimming, etc would have been far more effective than knocking other cycling events. He needs to go and look at Shaneze training to see just what an athletic endeavour BMX is (as well as pretty exciting).

  5. To be fair though, he has tweeted since to say he has nothing against mtb & BMX.

  6. Where are my pitchfork and torch?

  7. Pretty much spot on ST. Shame that Phil is so narrow minded..

  8. In response to James…

    he did say that, but that is rather at odds with his sentiment that MTB and BMX are a joke. He spoke out to raise awareness of the fact some very good track events have been dropped but did so in a poor way that seems to aim most of his anger inwards at other aspects of cycling rather than where it should be, at the external forces that made that choice.

  9. Having partaken in all three sports, I can only say the more cycling events of any kind, the better. People like Phil should be uniting the whole community to push that agenda. Afterall, people like Cadel Evans and Wiggo show how people can switch between cycling disciplines and benefit from that. As for sports that weren’t ‘meant to be’ in the Olympics – that would be most of them. You don’t see many Greek vases decorated with bicycles, shotguns or skis do you.

  10. First things first, I should state that the only sport/activity I’m bothered about is mountain biking. I don’t think any form of cycling should be in the Olympics though. I think it should be based around track, field and swimming events. Sports that require the competitor to use minimal equipment, which doesn’t have any kind of advantage over what other competitors are using. That way you’re seeing the true skill/fitness of those at the top of their game.

  11. Regardless of whether these events should be in the olympics or not, what he said is just nuts. At a time when cycling in general is enjoying a massive upsurge in the country and Wiggo et al doing what they are, everybody should be getting behind uk cycling – not spouting this sort of nonsense. The tweet
    doesn’t go anywhere close to making up for it.

    Very dissapointed by Phil. Watching stuff on tv knowing he said that won’t be the same.

  12. Funny, BMX and mountain biking were present in Beijing. I can’t see why they are to blame for track disciplines being dropped. It’s not like they use the same course.

  13. Surely the very heart of the Olymic ideal is that it is the competition that is important. Whether you are competing using tiddlywinks, a mountain bike, or even, heaven forbid a BMX, it shouldn’t matter. No one sport is “more important” than another. As time and trends move on, the sports included are bound to change, afterall the BMX hadn’t been invented when the games started, so how is to say that it woudn’t have been included, instead of say the 100m Hurdles??

  14. Is this not the same guy that was constantly telling us how well ex-mountain bikers like Cadel can descend, not a joke then obviously.

    It’s his opinion and he’s entitled to it, however short-sighted it is. Berk!

  15. “We understand the sentiment Phil, but you’ve expressed it very badly”
    Pretty much. Sounds/looks like a kneejerk response.
    Anyway, everyone has heard of Apollo, Greek God of Shonky/Starter BMX’s/MTB’s, haven’t they?

  16. Surely MTB only exists to teach TdF cyclists how to descend. I think that’s what I heard on the ITV coverage I was glued to recently.

    Phil, you’re showing your age. Are you also looking to ban these new dangled changeable gears Mr Campagnolo Is offering? Get with the game.

  17. If the Omnium is like the decathlon of cycling, it’d be fun if they included BMX and Mountain Biking in it. Would be really interesting to see who faired across all the two wheel disciplines! Wonder what wiggo and cav are like on knobblies and tiny wheels.

    Would have liked to see DH included, and happy to watch any cycling events personally. Better than table tennis or synchronised swimming at least!

  18. Surprised he could say “Mountain Biking” correctly.

  19. Very disappointed in his comments. Does he forget that numerous road riders started out on MTB’s…Cadel Evans being probably the most prominent. He’s probably scared to death of trying to commentate on it….

  20. He has been doing commentary on the TdF for 40 years. Perhaps he is ready for retirement. Perhaps his employers will think likewise. Very poor comment with long-lasting repercussions.

  21. He’s bang on, not nearly enough drug taking in mountain biking and BMX to consider themselves Olympic sports.

  22. The issue with MTB and BMX is that if they are trying to attract a younger audience, the wrong events are included. For BMX it should be a judged event and for MTB D/H.
    The biggest disgrace about the reduction of track events is that the host city is still required to build an expensive velodrome which, unless it is a country with a track tradition such as Aus or UK will be redundant post games (e.g. Athens).

  23. Well said STW.

    Ill considered comments borne out of frustration clearly, very disappointing he made them. He seems to have forgotten Shanaze Reade competes at the highest level in BMX AND Track cycling disciplines, as have others, which makes his comments seem even more silly.

    +1 for more cycling in general, would love to see Olympic DH racing. DH skiing has been in for decades, surely MTB DH is a matter of time.

  24. d45yth, you said:

    “Sports that require the competitor to use minimal equipment, which doesn’t have any kind of advantage over what other competitors are using. That way you’re seeing the true skill/fitness of those at the top of their game.”

    BMX and track bikes are really as simple as bikes get??

  25. Perhaps we should drop the whole thing and spend this money we did not have on several hospitals that won’t be owned by some greedy corrupt private companies who will bleed the country even drier than it already is.

  26. No track events were dropped in 1996 when MTB was introduced. Faster, stronger, higher is the Olympic motto. Sounds like BMX fits the bill rather well compared to some of the other cycling disciplines.

  27. Disappointing Philip! – reasonably sure Chris Hoy…sorry…Sir Chris Hoy would not agree re: BMX.

  28. Boarder and Snow Cross have shown us the way at the winter games. Side by side BMX is the way to go, just build bigger courses with bigger spectator stands, you’ll sell a lot of tickets.

    Cutting track cycling was daft for sure but don’t try and hurt other sections of the sport.

  29. Yep, agreed.

    I’d also like to recommend we never hear Hugh Porter commentating again! Chris Boardman managed to talk about cycling without numerous pointless cliches.

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