The world’s greatest free sporting event will be coming right through our county’s cities, towns and villages. The Grand Depart of the 101st edition of the Tour De France will take place on July 5th 2014 with cyclists embarking on the journey from right here in Leeds.
It is the first time since 2007 that the opening stages of the Tour will be held in England. Over one million people lined the streets of London for the opening prologue 6 years ago. With 98% of Yorkshire’s population situated within an hour of the planned route there should be no shortage of local support with organisers estimating that up to 2 million spectators will turn out.
Yorkshire’s economy is looking to receive a huge boost with an estimated global TV audience of 3.5million tuning in worldwide. The benefit to Yorkshire of hosting the race is conservatively estimated at £100million. The initial outlay of £10million in staging costs should be eclipsed by the money generated by the Tour and coupled with the media coverage the county will receive, organisers are predicting the financial return could be a lofty £120million.
The concern for the region is how the county will cope with such a huge influx of people in such a short space of time. There will be a huge demand on hotels and restaurants, with plans already in place for “pop up hotels” the type often seen at music festivals and last summer’s London Olympics. These “pop up hotels” can be built from prefabricated blocks plugged together, or based in huge tents with extra facilities.
Experts have commented that the reality for small towns and villages is that the infrastructure simply isn’t there at the roadside to cope with the Tour. Leeds and Sheffield, the major cities on the route, will see the greatest short-term economic impact with Leeds enjoying the fact that the cycling entourage will spend a night in the city itself.
As with last summer’s Olympics the word “legacy” is being banded around again with promises of investment in the county’s roads and facilities along the route. The legacy proposes promoting cycling to youngsters and helping to introduce bike banks as part of a push to cut traffic congestion and boost healthy living. As with the Olympic legacy last summer and the proposed legacy the Tour could leave, perhaps we should monitor the improvements to the economy in Corsica (the starting point for this year’s Tour) when the Tour departs from Leeds which will mark a year of the Peloton having been and gone through the French Island? Corsica, like Yorkshire, invested €10m to improve roads and other infrastructure, hoping to eventually reap €100m in extra spending by tourists who saw the island for the first time on television.
Hopefully the whole county and not just the major cities will receive an economic boost from the Tour but if we draw a comparison with 2007, the Grand Depart weekend generated an estimated £73m for London but only £15m for Kent. With British cycling in such a purple patch thanks to messrs Wiggins, Froome and Cavendish one thing we can be certain of is that there will be no shortage of British interest in the event on home soil as Froome and Wiggins battle it out for the Maillot Jaune!
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