Should Leeds host start of Tour de France?

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The possibility of Leeds hosting the start of the largest annual sporting event in the world - the Tour de France - will be debated by senior councillors next week. 

Formal approval for Leeds to be the host city for the Grand Départ of the legendary race is expected to be given by Leeds City Council’s executive board at the meeting at Civic Hall on Wednesday 17 October.

The Leeds bid forms part of a larger regional bid to bring the Tour to Yorkshire. The bidding process against other major European cities is ongoing, and Leeds confirming its intention to be the host city for the start is a key element of the bid which has so far received more than 150,000 pledges of support in an online campaign.

Aside from the traditional final stage and finish of the race on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, being chosen as the venue of the Grand Départ is a hugely prestigious honour and is the most publicised of all other locations in every Tour de France.

Interestingly the council doesn’t reveal the costs of Leeds hosting the event in its main report, and two other papers on the same subject are due to be discussed by councillors with the press and public excluded.

The official reason for hearing the papers behind closed doors is “publication to other bidders could have a negative impact on the success of the bid”.

It’s worth pointing out the Leeds council won’t be stumping up for the event by itself. The Leeds element forms part of the regional bid being led by tourism promoters Welcome to Yorkshire in partnership with other local authorities and regional bodies across Yorkshire.

The main report adds:

“With respect to the cost of delivering the event, this includes route preparation, cleansing, event management and venue hire. Some of these costs are capital in nature, particularly highway resurfacing. A breakdown of the anticipated costs is again outlined in the confidential Appendix 1.”

Councillors will hear that The Grand Départ is by far the biggest, and most publicised, of all the Tour locations except for the finish in Paris. A successful bid would, the report says, ‘reinforce Leeds’ credentials as a major UK city and aid its recovery from the economic downturn’.

The report - which makes interesting reading and can be read in full here - adds:

“Hosting the Grand Départ in 2007 generated an estimated £73 million of economic benefit to London and £15 million to Kent. A further £35 million was generated in publicity (over 20,000 pieces of media coverage).

“Over 3 million spectators attended the event across London and Kent with more than half of these coming from outside London and another 10% travelling to London from overseas. Day visitors spent £26.15 in London and £18.82 in Kent.”

Leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Keith Wakefield, said:

“For Leeds to be able to host the start of the Tour de France would be incredible in terms of the global profile the city would receive from being a focal point for the world’s largest annual sporting event.

“The benefits would be enormous, not only in profile, tourism and financial terms, but in terms of a legacy of inspiring in particular young people to lead healthy lifestyles.”

To support the Yorkshire bid to host the Tour de France, visit http://www.yorkshire.com/back-the-bid.

John Baron

ohn Baron has worked in a variety of roles for local newspapers since starting his career as a trainee reporter at the Leeds Weekly News in 1994. He has also worked for Wharfedale Newspapers in Ilkley, the Yorkshire Weekly Newspaper Group in Wakefield and was previously a trainer for Johnston Press. In 2010 he was beatblogger for the Guardian's experimental and hugely successful Leeds blog and since contributed to and helped develop www.southleedslife.com as well as contributing to the City Talking since its launch last year.