Robin Scott-Elliot: Brian Cookson gets nod after finishing the fiasco in a flash

 

Florence

It was nearly enough to make even the oversize copy of the statue of David, standing bare and proud outside the Palazzo Vecchio, look embarrassed.

That cycling was in desperate need of a change of leadership was laid painfully bare inside one of Florence’s most striking landmarks yesterday as a morning of farce tumbled into a lunchtime of squabble, an early afternoon of confused anger and the inevitable tears before tea-time.

Back before the bicycle had been invented Leonardo da Vinci was among those asked to decorate the Salone dei Cinquecento, the room in which yesterday’s election for the man who would rule cycling took place. He could have completed the job, invented a flying bicycle and cracked a few codes in the time it took the International Cycling Union to decide who should be its next president.

The tears belonged to Pat McQuaid, who was finally ousted by Britain’s Brian Cookson having clung on for dear life. “My wife has a husband back and my children their father back,” said the Irishman as he stepped out of office. By then it came as a surprise that he was not dragged out kicking and screaming.

McQuaid has to bear responsibility for what happened yesterday, five hours of shambolic process that embarrassed a sport that was already not in a good place. It is little wonder Cookson, who takes up office  immediately, has promised root  and branch reform to the  governing body.

It was Cookson’s day, and not only because he won by 24 votes to 18. Rather it was because of the manner in which he ended the uncertainty  and confusion.

There must have been times during the debate when he considered withdrawing his nomination, as who would want to lead this lot? Election day began with the validity of McQuaid’s nomination unclear, and it never became clearer despite the efforts of lawyers consulted by the UCI to claim otherwise. “Opinions can be bought and obtained,” observed the Australian delegate archly. “I know because I am a lawyer.”

Cookson sat on the podium, occasionally shaking his head, at other times raising his eyebrows. He doesn’t do facial expression; it’s all in the eyebrows. Then he snapped, stood up and strode to the lectern.

“We have had enough of this,” he declared, and demanded the congress forget about whether McQuaid could stand and just vote on whether he or the Irishman should be  their president.

It was a dramatic moment, and a gamble too. An earlier vote on an amendment to the constitution that would permit the incumbent president to stand without nomination (McQuaid was not nominated by his home federation, instead by the Thais and Moroccans – there remains absolute uncertainty whether that was or wasn’t within the constitution) had been tied at 21-21. After eight years in the job McQuaid still had strong support, particularly in Asia. But it worked and it may have even swung a final vote or two behind Cookson. It was a display of leadership that had been lacking throughout a morning which had included delegates accusing their leaders of “changing the rules once the race had begun”. “It’s a masquerade,” said the Algerian delegate.

At one point proceedings were delayed because the Russian interpreter had gone missing. It was easy to understand why she had taken flight. It was easy to feel for those delegates who work for their sport seeing it made a mockery of.

“I felt,” said Cookson afterwards, “that I owed it to the cycling world to put an end to the misery we were all going through. We can all agree that today was pretty disastrous for cycling and the UCI.”

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
life
Property
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Life and Style
tech
News
The Commonwealth flag flies outside Westminster Abbey in central London
news
Arts and Entertainment
Struggling actors who scrape a living working in repertory theatres should get paid a 'living wage', Sir Ian McKellen has claimed
theatre
Extras
indybest
News
Skye McCole Bartusiak's mother said she didn't use drink or drugs
peopleActress was known for role in Mel Gibson film The Patriot
Arts and Entertainment
tvWebsite will allow you to watch all 522 shows on-demand
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Graduate Web Developer

£18000 - £28000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Excellent opportun...

Graduate Database Developer (SQL)

£18000 - £28000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Excellent opportun...

Community / Stakeholder Manager - Solar PV

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Senior Marketing Executive (B2B/B2C) - London

£32000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor