With a decision looming over where the Grand Départ of the 2014 Tour de France will take place, organisers of two competing British bids to host the opening days of the race are making a final push to state their case. Meanwhile, academics at Cardiff University have published a report assessing the environmental impacts of the race’s last visit to the UK in 2007.
A Scottish-led bid, which would see the race head south through England, via Wales, to the Channel ports, has the backing of British Cycling. A rival bid from Yorkshire lacks any such support from the sport’s governing body in the UK, and last week a local MP sought assurances from the government that the absence of official endorsement would not affect any potential assistance the government might be able to provide.
Jason McCartney, the Conservative MP for Colne Valley, tabled a question for Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Maria Millar last Thursday in which he asked “what support her Department is giving to bids for the Tour de France to come to the UK in 2014.”
Answering on Ms Miller’s behalf, Ed Vaizey, Under Secretary of State at the DCMS, stated: “UK Sport and British Cycling are discussing potential bids to host stages of the event around the UK in 2014. We have asked UK Sport to assess the strategic importance and financial viability of the bids and to provide support as necessary.”
Mr McCartney followed up with a second question in which he asked Mr Vaizey to “confirm that the Yorkshire bid for the Tour de France in 2014 and its potential route over Holme Moss in my constituency will be given equal support and funding to the Scottish bid?”
In reply, Mr Vaizey said that the government believes “the best chance of success will be to submit a single bid and we have reached out to Yorkshire to ask them to take part in a national bid. Anything he can do to help would be most welcome.”
That response appears to be a clear signal that the government is more disposed to put its weight behind the Scottish bid, whose organisers have moved beyond an initial proposal to confine any potential Grand Départ to north of the border and instead widened their plans to embrace other parts of the UK. Yorkshire, however, is missing from the latest provisional route.
According to an article in Scotland on Sunday earlier this month, plans for a Prologue in Edinburgh have now been replaced by a road stage which would see the race head from the Scottish capital towards either Dumfries or Newcastle-upon-Tyne at the request of organisers ASO, which is expected to make its decision in the coming days.
The race would then continue to Manchester then through Wales to the South of England, with the four stages envisaged representing the longest time the Tour has ever been outside its home country.
Paul Bush, chief operating officer of EventScotland, which is co-ordinating the bid, says that current proposals would take the race within an hour’s travel of half of Britain’s population.
However, he added that efforts to try and persuade the team handling the Yorkshire bid to join forces and present a united front to Tour de France organisers ASO had fallen on deaf ears.
“The sad thing for us is that the UK has the most exciting proposition ever for the Tour and Yorkshire won’t talk to us,” explained Bush. “I find that strange.”
While the Scottish-led bid may have British Cycling's backing, those handling the Yorkshire bid lobbied hard at this year's Tour, including taking out adverts in ASO-owned newspaper L'Equipe to raise the region's profile, and should it come down to a matter of money, they reportedly have more to put on the table.
While the British bids are seen as the frontrunners, the Italian city of Florence, host of the UCI Road World Championships next year, is also hoping to stage the opening days of the 2014 Tour, a year that marks the centenary of the birth of Tuscany's greatest ever cyclist, two time Tour de France winner Gino Bartali.
Whether either of the two British bids prove successful, the huge crowds that greeted the Olympic road events in London and Surrey this summer, reminiscent of those seen when the Tour started in the British capital in 2007 then headed through Kent to Canterbury, prove that the public here respond to the opportunity to see the sport’s biggest stars on the country’s roads.
A study into that London Grand Départ led by Dr Andrea Collins, a research fellow at Cardiff University’s School of Planning and Geography, sought to answer the question, “How ‘green’ is cycling when it becomes the focus of the largest annual sporting event in the world?”
The research was based on a survey of 1,400 of the estimated 2.85 million people who attended the Prologue and Stage 1 of the 2007 race plus associated events such as the team presentation, adjusted to take account of the fact that many people would have attended on more than one day.
Key findings from the report, which you can download here, are:
The largest spectator spending was on food and drink, transport and accommodation. The (net) direct spectator spending impact on the UK was estimated to be almost £80m.
The total economic impact of the event on the UK economy was estimated to be almost £150m, and 2,000 (full-time equivalent) jobs.
The environmental impact of the event was estimated by calculating its ‘ecological footprint’. This is the land area required to support the resource demands and consumption patterns of the spectators, and is measured in terms of ‘global hectares’. The total Footprint was estimated to be 57,990 global hectares. This is equivalent to 143 times the area of London’s Olympic Park.
The ecological footprint of the average spectator at the Grand Depart was almost 2.2 times greater than if they had not attended the event and gone about their regular everyday activities at home.
The main contributor to the ecological footprint was travel. The average spectator travelled 734 kilometres to watch the event. Almost 59% of the total distance travelled was by air (largely international air travel), which added significantly to the overall Footprint. Other key contributors were rail, coach and car travel.
Dr Collins said: “Organisers need to be better informed about the local and global environmental impacts that can result from staging a major sport event.
“Our study of the Tour de France has demonstrated that although events can result in large economic benefits they can also generate significant environmental impacts.
“These impacts need to be identified from the outset so that practical steps can be taken during the planning stages to reduce them as far as possible.
“Organisers could also use this environmental information to communicate how successful they have been in reducing the negative impacts associated with the event.
“Major sport events are often used to raise our awareness of particular issues such as the health benefits of physical activity.
“However their value as a vehicle for raising public awareness of environmental issues and encouraging spectators to take small but significant changes has yet to be realised.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.