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What a difference an "R" makes

Dunc Gay, officially NSW Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight, in reality Minister for More Carz and Trucks and bugger the rest of you; self-professed “world’s biggest bike-lane sceptic” who has actually ripped out existing Sydney CBD bike infra - all round unpleasant, atavistic infrastructure dinosaur.

Dunc Gray, Australian Olympic Cyclist, Gold Medallist, decent bloke, and oh so very nearly the assassin of Hitler in 1936.

Interviewed shortly before his death in 1996, Dunc told Peter Fitzsimon the story, which I have reproduced from Fitz’s book on how he gave up sugar and lost 45kg (never you mind why I was reading that, I just was ok?)

…at Berlin’s Olympiastadion on 1 August 1936, for one frozen moment in time, Dunc looked at the pointy end of the spear-like staff the Australian flag was attached to, looked at Adolf Hitler swanning past just 15 yards away, and in a moment of madness thought he would probably be doing a very good thing if he just bloody well drove the spear into Hitler’s heart and be done with it.

Mate ! So close … If you like the idea of spearing Hitler with a flag staff, google the recent footage of White Supremecist Richard Spencer being punched while giving an interview... oh look, let me just get that for you.  

I quite like this version set to a Rage Against the Machine song, but I fell off my chair laughing at the same video clip set to Miley's Wrecking Ball. Everyone saw him cry after being punched, I dare say his career as leader of the "Alt-Right" is under threat right now. Bigly sad.

 As a young man Dunc joined the Goulburn Amateur Bicycle Club, and went on to become our dominant cyclist, winning 20 national titles, 25 NSW state titles, and 36 club championships as well as Australia’s first ever Olympic cycling medal.

Although he had no coach and little international experience and had never ridden in a time trial before Dunc won bronze in the 1000m time trial.

When the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics began, Dunc was hospitalised with influenza a week before his races, but still reached the semi-final of the sprint. He qualified to ride off for the bronze medal, on the same night as he was due to ride the time trial. Concerned that he didn't have the strength for both rides on the same night he withdrew from the medal race... and later watched his Italian rival ride the course alone. ARGH !

Dunc went on to win Australia's first ever Olympic cycling gold medal, again in the 1000m time trial and breaking a world record while doing so.

In Berlin in 1936 when he had his “if only” moment with Hitler, Australia won no gold, but Dunc reached the quarter-finals of his only event, the sprint.

He was again the flag bearer at the 1938 Sydney Empire Games where he won gold in the 1000m sprint.

In 1932 Gray was awarded the coveted Helms Award as outstanding Australian athlete.

 In his last years, Dunc devoted energy to supporting the Olympic movement, including Melbourne's bid for the 1996 Summer Olympics and then Sydney's successful bid for the 2000 Summer Olympics. The Dunc Gray Velodrome at Bass Hill, in Sydney's western suburbs, built for the 2000 Olympics, was named after this iconic Australian cyclist.

 But the Sydney Olympics, like most Olympics, leaves a legacy of some world-class facilities with no clear plan for ongoing use or funding of maintenance. I’ve been out to the Homebush site quite a few times for concerts, tennis, cycling, and despite the huge crowds that ebb and flow through the place for events, I find a strangely lifeless venue, but it serves a purpose.

 After the Olympics, the state government “gifted” the $42 million velodrome to Bankstown Council, much in the tradition of the old “White Elephants” Indian and Thai rulers would give to enemies to bankrupt the recipient. Bankstown Sports Club has been operating the venue under license, but that lease expires in 2019.

 The Dunc Gray Velodrome is the only indoor velodrome in NSW, and is facing the prospect of demolition because the new council of Canterbury Bankstown will resume responsibility for the venue in two years, including the estimated $500,000 annual maintenance bill, on top of another $1 million in capital works needed in the next few years. Interestingly post the forced Council mergers, Canterbury Bankstown is now responsible for both NSW velodromes, the other being the outdoor bowl at Tempe.

 "Unfortunately, track cycling is a very small sport that requires a very large investment in the venue that you use for it," said the administrator of Canterbury Bankstown, Richard Colley. "There are a number of options … ranging from a 'do-nothing’ ... through to the nth degree - which is demolition," he said.

His point is that the burden of paying for track cycling in NSW should not fall solely on the ratepayers of Canterbury Bankstown. And I totally agree, track cycling isn’t a widespread sport and it is unfair that a single council holds the sole fiscal responsibility for the future of any sport for our state in it’s unwilling hands. Were I a resident of the area, I’d be bloody annoyed too, especially given the state of the footpaths out that way. With Sydney’s focus on housing supply I can see a future where there’s a strong push to sell one or both sites for development.

The state government still supports the archery and equestrian Olympic venues but has cast adrift the cycling venue. Had it too been constructed in the Olympic Precinct it could have taken advantage of the transport links, the more central location, proximity to the cycling road racing venues and of course it would have been harder for the state government to cut the purse-strings.

 Obviously for Phil Ayres, Cycling NSW’s CEO, not having an indoor velodrome would be the end of his sport in this state.

"Track cycling really needs to be done on an indoor track, in terms of weather conditions and accessibility. To lose this site would end the sport in NSW," Ayres said. Although Colley describes the sport as small, Ayres points to the hundreds of participants who come from all across the State to use the venue each week.

 The Tempe velodrome is no use in the rain; it once took five days to run a one-day state championship. I’ve been to Tempe and it’s small and friendly and the beers are $5. It’s a delightful informal venue, but not in the class required to foster Olympic level training and racing.

 I don’t see the political will to build a new velodrome in a more central location in Sydney, so hopefully the NSW Minister for Sports can see his way to stumping up a measly $500k per year; nothing in the waste and excess of our current state government.  That’s probably the cost of a single PR consultant hired to deal with the fall-out every time one of the men’s swimming team does something repugnant.

Otherwise they’ll need to fund a different commemorative site for Dunc Gray – and these days we need all the public examples of staunch anti-Nazi defiance we can get, and if it’s delivered by a guy on a bike, all the better.

Olympic medal cyclist and Nazi Hunter Dunc Gray

Olympic medal cyclist and Nazi Hunter Dunc Gray


Dunc Gay and Dunc Gray – both born in Goulburn, separated by a few years, but what a difference an “R” makes.

[Edit 23 Jan, Dunc Gay dropped from the NSW cabinet and will retire earlier then planned from politics. So sees the end of a 6-year reign of incompetance over NSW Roads. I'll be over to help you pack.]