The controversial Tour of Beijing, ready to launch this coming Wednesday, has been fraught with allegations of cronyism and corruption, while the UCI has fired back that they are concerned with the greater good of the sport. Their decisions are about furthering the reach of cycling to a new audience, especially one that is part of the rising BRICS bloc (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), who many feel will be the new powerhouses in the global economy game.
I monitored twitter with interest on Saturday when Jonathan Vaughters engaged with quite a few, trying his best to put a positive spin on the Tour of Beijing, even going so far as to state that he hoped the UCI had the best of intentions with the fledgling race.
Inspired, I thought I’d take a look at the Tour of Beijing website to see if Vaughters’ assertions were correct, or somewhat correct, or even marginally correct. I was rather surprised to see some of the names that are associated with the Tour, even beyond the usual suspects. All you have to do is head here: http://www.tourofbeijing.net/tour/organisation/
The first name that sparks recognition is Liu Jingmin. Who is Liu Jingmin? Jingmin was the executive vice-president of the Beijing Olympics Organizing Committee. He was the #2 man to Liu Qi, who is the head of the Beijing Communist Party (also the Games’ top Chinese official). Jingmin developed a personal friendship with none other than one Hein Verbruggen. In fact, Jingmin and Verbruggen teamed up to bring the World Combat Games to Beijing in 2010, which generated income for an organization that Verbruggen is currently president of, SportAccord.
The others on the Beijing Organizing Committee are of no surprise, based upon their involvement with cycling in China (Pan Zhichen), or with the Beijing Games (Li Yingchuan, Li Jinkang). Where it becomes very interesting is when you examine the individuals included in “International Operations.” This group is headed by Alain Rumpf of Global Cycling Promotion SA (we won’t flog the GCP angle, as Velocast already covered it beautifully here), and has some surprising links.
The second name on that organizational chart is Alan Rushton, who is well known in Ireland for his involvement with the Tour of Ireland – and the controversy associated with that event – where winners still remain unpaid. Rushton has close connections to UCI President Pat McQuaid, which are well-documented and well-known.
Third on the list is Jean-Francois Pescheux, technical man for the ASO. We all know that the ASO are supremely talented and well known for route organization, so it’s no surprise that the UCI contacted their partner on many races to help out with a WorldTour race that still hasn’t had a cyclist on the course. The question many are asking this week, however, is if there is a relationship between the Muscat bid being withdrawn and the ASO being called in to help with Beijing? Maybe not.
For media and communications, David Cuthbert, owner of Jump Media and Marketing (out of Australia), seems a curious choice. However further digging shows that Cuthbert is involved with the Jayco Herald Sun Tour and is currently the Oceania representative for International Association of Athletics Federation Television Commission. Again, his involvement with Olympic-related ventures, plus cycling ventures, puts him firmly in the sphere of both McQuaid and Verbruggen.
Three of the final four on the list are UCI usual suspects: Manolo Romero, who is involved with Olympic television ventures; Tobias Friedrich, who is a UCI employee; and Marcel Berger, who is a part of UCI Travel, a brand run by Mumu Media, a company that was split off from Rob Cecconi’s Sportsnet Holidays in 2010.
However, the fourth and final member of the International Operations is a curious one. Her name? Yan Shi. Shi is listed by her company, Silk Road Consultants, which is registered in Montreux, Switzerland. And where is Montreux, Switzerland? Right next door to both Vevey and Aigle. You can see the registration of the company here. You may say to yourself that this is one happy coincidence, since McQuaid happens to live in Vevey, and the UCI works out of Aigle, and the connection with McQuaid indicates that he must be pulling the strings entirely on this.
Closer examination of Shi also reveals her connection to SportAccord. Shi, was the manager of the Multi-Sports Gaming Department for SportAccord at the World Combat Games held in 2010, in, of all places, Beijing. Shi is most likely still in that position with SportAccord today. This is an assumption as the SportAccord site states that they have 12 full-time staff supporting Verbruggen in his efforts to grow this venture. Her email address is a sportaccord.com address at both the Tour of Beijing website, and also at the World Combat Games website. And of course, we all know who runs SportAccord – Verbruggen.
While I’m with Vaughters in wanting to give the UCI the benefit of the doubt when it comes to growing the sport, I still struggle with the names that are associated with bringing this event off the ground.
And when it comes to Shi, why does a SportAccord employee have her own consulting business, with a registration address in Switzerland? Why is this person picked out of many qualified candidates to act as a liaison between the Chinese organizers and the International Operations of the Tour of Beijing? Why is her contact information directing people to a SportAccord email address rather than her own consulting company email address? I don’t think I need to imply the word “front” here; you get the inference.
These are questions I would be asking McQuaid if I were Vaughters – or any other team manager/owner whose money was used to start Global Cycling Promotion SA. Or should they be asking Verbruggen, the man behind the curtain who’s pulling the strings?