Welsh Lib Dems make winning Tour de France Grand Départ an election pledge
Labour dominance means ambitious plan likely to remain just another manifesto promise
As electoral pledges go, it's a bit more concrete than a passing reference to promoting forms of sustainable travel such as cycling and walking; Liberal Democrat politicians in Wales have reportedly made a commitment to bring the Grand Départ of the Tour de France to the principality one of their manifesto pledges for the forthcoming Welsh National Assembly elections, taking place in May.
According to a report on the website Wales Online, Veronica German, Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South East Wales, believes that Wales would provide the perfect setting for the opening of the three-week race and that hosting the event could draw in 4 million spectators.
The population of Wales is around 3 million, so that would mean that there would have to be a huge influx of fans from other parts of the UK and beyond.
Ms German said: “From Snowdonia to the Brecon Beacons, Wales could provide a spectacular and challenging stage for the world’s top athletes.
“The likes of Nicole Cooke and Geraint Thomas have shown that the Welsh are no slouches in the saddle. The Welsh Government needs to change up a gear and bring the Tour to Wales.
“After the success of the Ryder Cup, the Tour de France will give Wales another opportunity to shine on the world stage. It is watched by millions across Europe and estimates suggest the Welsh economy could benefit by up to £115m.
“The mayor of London successfully brought the Tour to England in 2007. With the right leadership and vision, Wales could do likewise.”
There is strong competition from outside France to host the Grand Départ of cycling’s biggest race, which nowadays typically starts outside its home country every two or three years.
Last week we reported that Barcelona had tendered a formal bid for the start of the 2014 race, while EventScotland has previously confirmed that it is putting a bid together, most likely for 2017.
The Tour de France had a memorable Grand Départ in London and South East England in 2007, and the race also visited Plymouth in 1974, returning to the South Coast in 1994 with a stage from Dover to Brighton followed by a stage that started and finished in Portsmouth. In 1998, the Republic of Ireland hosted the start of the race.
Currently, the Welsh Liberal Democrats hold just six of the 60 seats in the Welsh National Assembly, so there would appear to be little prospect of the manifesto pledge becoming reality unless other parties, and Labour and Plaid Cymru in particular, can be persuaded to come on board.