Thank you Leeds for making Tour de France history and providing the city with its greatest day in living memory.
That was the proud message from an emotional Leeds City Council leader Keith Wakefield last night after unprecedented spectator numbers turned out to support the most spectacular Grand Départ in the cycle race’s 111-year history.
He said he was still coming to terms with the staggering sight of 230,000 people squeezing into the Headrow to give the 198 riders a loud – and colourful – send-off that exceeded every expectation.
“To me, it proves that Leeds and Yorkshire can put on world class events,” declared Coun Wakefield. “It is also a statement of ambition as Ministers prepare to devolve powers to the region which will give us even more freedom. As well as being ambitious for sport, we need to be ambitious for the whole city-region as we move forward. If people work together, we can make Yorkshire truly great.”
In addition to Welcome to Yorkshire, Coun Wakefield paid tribute to the thousands of council employees who gave up their time to make sure that Leeds did justice to the Tour de France’s traditions and put on the biggest event ever staged in the county.
“A big thank you to everyone. They should be proud of their city because I am,” he added. “I thought that the Headrow would be busy and packed, but seeing the streets packed all the way through Leeds on the road to Harewood made me fill up with great pride and ambition.”
His comments were endorsed by London’s transport commissioner Sir Peter Hendy who oversaw the 2007 Grand Départ in the capital.
The University of Leeds graduate says this weekend’s race was even more impressive than seven years ago because there was no structure in place to host an event of this magnitude.
“One of the things we have in London is a level of strategic government which you do not have here,” said Sir Peter, who expects one million spectators in the capital today. “If you can replicate this in economic development, you can take Yorkshire in a whole new direction.
“This has been extraordinary. The crowds I saw are bigger than anything that London got in 2007 – and that is a huge achievement.”