SIR Gary Verity says he will accept his knighthood on behalf of the “people of Yorkshire” after being awarded the top title in the Queen’s birthday honours.
The Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive, who bought the Tour de France to the county last summer, said he was “chuffed to bits” at official confirmation of the accolade – and the fact that he was no longer sworn to secrecy.
“Such things are reserved for people who climb Everest, win four or five Olympic gold medals, win the Tour de France, not for ordinary people like me,” he said.
“I reckon 20,000 people all give it their best shot...I hope they can take a lot of pleasure and comfort from this. In many ways, this is for the people of Yorkshire who bought the dream and went with it in such tremendous fashion.”
The knighthood completes a year to remember for Leeds-born Sir Gary who also celebrated his 50th birthday during last year’s Tour before marrying school teacher Anne Dargan last December. They met after Sir Gary’s first wife, Helen, died from cancer in 2009.
Sir Gary credits his late father Geoffrey for providing the inspiration which has culminated with the tourism boss becoming Yorkshire’s latest knight of the realm.
“I did wonder, when I received the letter from the Cabinet Office, what my dad would have made it,” he said the 50-year-old. “He was a very good Dad when I was growing up in Leeds. He was a master joiner – but he was also a great sportsman. He used to take me to the rugby league, the cricket...the big one was Leeds United.”
Sir Gary hopes the successful staging of two world-class cycling events will be the catalyst for Yorkshire’s business and political leaders to work together to help the county to become a world-leading economic force.
He believes that the Grand Départ and Tour de Yorkshire offer a template for the future as this region looks to hold its own against Britain’s devolved nations – and a resurgent Greater Manchester that will be the first beneficiary of the Government’s devolution policy.
“Two words are important – big picture,” he said. “Stick to the biggest common denominator and not the lowest common denominator.”