• Home Sweet Home
How sad to read that the old house and garden have to go.
My first memory of visiting your home was in 1987 when your mum and dad were looking after the young Isaan girl who had broken her back when escaping from a brothel in Bangkok. I was working at McKean and made her a special made-to-measure wheelchair then delivered it to the house where I remember being invited to have afternoon tea in the garden. The girl was very happy with her new wheelchair which was much lighter and more maneuverable than the clunky old one she had. Where is she now I wonder?
Didn’t your mum or John write a book about her? My memory is not so good on that score.
[Ed. Thank you! Yes, the book my father wrote was the Seal of Tammatari based on Bua Kaew from Mae Tang, who jumped out of a second floor window of a brothel and became paralysed nearly thirty years ago. She passed away two years ago, sadly, but we are still in very close contact with her family, who bring us garlic and new potatoes each year!]
• Nuisance on Nimman
Thanks for your editorial and article about the shabby and generally run down state of Nimmanhaemin Road. Couldn’t agree more and this is marketed as the Beverley Hills of Chiang Mai! Can I also draw your attention to the fact that at least 50% of the streetlights don’t work as well as traffic lights which is pretty deplorable in a city like this. A bit of maintenance would work wonders.
• Velodrome in Good Nick
I was surprised to read Billy Boyle’s letter in Citylife (Sept 2012) and his comments about what he called the ‘wooden bike racing track’ which is in fact the velodrome at the 700 Year Sports complex. When I arrived in Chiang Mai almost four years ago, the velodrome was unused and locked up. It took 9 months of hard work and campaigning to unlock the gates and make it available, once again, for regular use. I have to correct Mr. Boyle, because the track is not wooden and is not “falling to pieces” as he claims. It is a concrete track which is in far better condition than many of the outdoor tracks (such as Halesowen) that you would find in the world’s leading cycle track racing nation, Great Britain. I have had to carry out some minor repairs, but the track is safe and usable.
Sadly, the reason that the velodrome had not been used for so long is because the management at the 700 year complex does not have the expertise to manage a velodrome. Unfortunately they also ask 100 baht from each person that uses it _ which can be contrasted to the 40 baht or so entrance fee for the swimming pool _ which discourages people from using it. On the negative side I have seen all kinds of people circling the velodrome on bikes other than cycling track bikes, without helmets and riding in the wrong direction. These people are not approached for payment and neither are the rules of velodrome riding enforced. These rules were drawn up at the sensible insistence of the Northern Thai Sports Authority (who manage the sports complex) but they are never enforced and their staff seem unaware of their existence.
Since the velodrome has been reopened for public use, I have been coaching a handful of young Thai riders, taking two of them to national competitions. I have a coaching license from the Thai Cycling Association and have been using a lifetime of cycle racing experiences to do what I can to help these boys. One of the major problems is that there is no support. The majority of Thai youths cannot afford the equipment or travel that is required to become a fully fledged and competitive track racing cyclist. Neither can they find good qualified coaches prepared to give their all to help them succeed.
It is these kind of problems that limits Thailand’s ability to win medals at major international competitions. We heard many good words from Thai sporting leaders after the London Olympics but they were simply a repeat of the stock phrases uttered after Beijing. My experience of cycling as a sport here on the Chiang Mai velodrome makes me wonder if the sports authorities are really serious about developing this sport (and indeed other Olympic disciplines) in Thailand. It is sad that elite sport seems to be only within the grasp of a privileged few, whereas, as British Cycling has shown, the best talent is to be found at the grass roots, in schools and local communities. With good funding in place and wholehearted support from the sports authorities Thailand could make some headway before the next Olympics in Rio. They should act now before it’s too late. However the general attitude towards me as an experienced cycling coach, the lack of support my youngsters receive and other issues leaves me scratching my head.
Therefore, in order to generate interest in track cycling, I recently published (with the help of Citylife) a handbook about track cycling. This is available directly from me [email protected] or in any of the main cycle shops in town. We have also formed a new cycling club based at the Velodrome called Chiang Mai Track Stars which will shortly have its own specially designed clothing. There is a lot to be done here and any help, financial or physical, would be welcomed. We hold regular sessions on Wednesdays from 2 until 6 p.m. and on Saturday mornings from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. If Mr. Boyle, or any other interested party would like to come and see how we work and how we use the velodrome we would welcome them.