David Owen

I am sitting on a peeling brown painted bench in Ryonan Park, 43 kilometres west of central Tokyo, eating a rice-ball wrapped in seaweed in a very fine drizzle.

Directly in front of me, a deserted baseball park is overlooked by powerful floodlights; a black cat prowls at left field. 

Had I been seated in the same spot nearly 51 years earlier, on the afternoon of Friday, 16 October 1964, I could have looked on as a Belgian cyclist called Patrick Sercu powered around what was then the Hachioji Velodrome to the Olympic gold medal in the 1,000 metres time trial, averaging 51.731kilometres an hour.

A small black and white photograph and some Japanese text in a corner of a notice-board opposite the baseball field’s green gates is all that I spotted to mark the site’s Olympic heritage.

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Patrick Sercu receives his Olympic gold medal after winning the 1,000 metres time trial at Tokyo 1964 at the Hachioji Velodrome ©Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Now though, it seems, there is at least a small chance that the city of Hachioji might be given the opportunity to reprise that week half-a-century ago when it basked in the Olympic spotlight, with the eyes of Sercu’s native West Flanders undoubtedly upon it.

I understand that a permanent new velodrome in Hachioji is one of the options on the table as the International Cycling Union (UCI) stages a last-ditch battle to avoid being dispatched to Izu, 130 km away from central Tokyo.

I am told that Hachioji City has submitted petitions to stage all three of the cycling disciplines - track, BMX and mountain bike – that have still definitively to be placed at Tokyo 2020.

Cycling is now the last sport other than football and whatever new sports find their way onto the Olympic programme whose Tokyo 2020 venues remain under review following changes to the original blueprint that have produced savings of $1.7 billion (£1.1 billion/€1.5 billion) by making greater use of pre-existing and further-flung facilities.

The rationale for the switch to Izu is that there is already a velodrome there.

It would require something like $50 million (£33 million/€45 million) of work to get it ready for the Games, mainly adding spectator capacity.

But an IOC source has explained to me that the cost would be paid by the keirin community.

The UCI contends it is simply too far away, has too small a capacity and would offer an unsatisfactory spectator experience if capacity were increased to an acceptable level.

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Under the original plans, Tokyo 2020 were to build a temporary velodrome for the Olympics and Paralympics at Tokyo Bay ©Tokyo 2020

Time to find a solution is now exceptionally tight, with John Coates, chairman of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s Tokyo 2020 Coordination Commission confirming this week that the aim is to reach a conclusion at the IOC Executive Board to be held in Kuala Lumpur later this month.

Coates said: “We are still involved in discussions with the UCI.

“We are exploring using Izu, an existing venue that can be increased in terms of capacity.

“It would necessitate a separate village for athletes there for the first week.

“We don’t have agreement with the UCI.

“They have some other suggestions that we are exploring.

“What led us to look to go out there was that the original planning was for a temporary velodrome at $180 million (£116 million/€162 million) cost.”

I gather that the main velodrome alternatives, apart from Izu and Hachioji, would be for a temporary track or velodrome to be erected at an existing sporting facility, or even a car-park, as close as feasible to the Olympic Village.

As for BMX and mountain bike, with environmental concerns having apparently surfaced over Hachioji’s suggestions in this area, the UCI would like to stick with proposals outlined in Tokyo 2020’s original bid book – that is to say Ariake North in central Tokyo for BMX and Sea Forest South in Tokyo Bay for mountain bike.

Alternatives for BMX, I understand, could include Dream Island, or even the Makuhari Messe convention centre east of Tokyo that is now hosting fencing, taekwondo and wrestling.

Neither Dream Island or Sea Forest North, which is to stage the cross country element of the equestrian three-day event, is considered a suitable option for mountain bike.

Given the shortage of time, the estimated $45 million (£29 million/€40 million) cost and the sense that outside the UCI, the preference is for Izu, I have the feeling that Hachioji’s chances of extending its Olympic cycling pedigree at Tokyo 2020 are actually not all that strong.

Whether all three homeless disciplines, and hence the sport’s entire centre of gravity for the purposes of Tokyo 2020, can be coaxed out to a mountainous and relatively remote peninsula known for its wasabi, the hot green sushi accompaniment, I am not altogether convinced.