Leeds First Direct Arena News: Tony Watson assesses the TDF impact

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The last seven days have been pretty unique...

It’s been coming for so long. Back in December 2012 when Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity made the announcement that the World’s largest sporting event was coming to Leeds and Yorkshire it sparked four main things into action.

1. The team at Welcome to Yorkshire & their partners started meticulous planning to deliver the best Grand Depart ever.

2. The UK’s cycling community started to get excited about the elite stars of their chosen sport visiting their home country.

3. The keyboard warriors started laying into the cost of hosting the event, bemoaning everything that was said about whenever it was easy to do so. (From moans about the challenges of bin collections during the Tour to the cost of pot hole repair.)

4. The non-cycling community watched on, listening, waiting, neutral and hopeful that something truly special would happen and that the planning would mean the benefits would outweigh the challenges.

The months passed and the work load never relented.

All the stakeholders in the delivery of this, from Gary Verity and his W2Y team, to my team at the arena and everyone else in between had a single focussed ambition. In previous years, the ambition for other cities and regions has been simply to deliver the Grand Depart. This year, the ambition was to deliver the most spectacular, Yorkshire showcasing, memorable and inclusive Grand Depart ever.

I think this was achieved.

Grand Depart 2014 wasn’t just delivered, it delivered in a fashion that will be hard to beat in future years: the most spectacular, memorable and best attended opening ceremony ever with over 12,000 people in the First Direct Arena welcome the world’s best cycling stars to God’s County, 230,000 people in Leeds city centre to witness the ceremonial start of the race.

The Royal Family, the Red Arrows and over 50,000 people at Harewood to witness the official start, 2.9m people lining the streets, 3.5 billion people watching the race and what can only be described as two four-hour documentaries on some of the greatest countryside on Earth.

So. Was it worth it? Yes, and here’s why.

Yorkshire DELIVERED an exceptionally complicated event. The world’s media, multiple and conflicting local authorities, agencies and stakeholders... It didn’t matter. The power of ambition forced unity and every requirement was delivered.

Yorkshire EXCELLED. The world watching saw a region delivering what many a nation would struggle to do.

Leeds United 1992 League Champions.  Leeds United v Sheffield United, title winning match, 26th April 1992.  Players celebrate. From left: Jon Newsome, Gary Speed, Gary McAllister and Eric Cantona with John Lukic behind.

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