There is little doubt that Le Tour put Yorkshire on the map but as the dust begins to settle Jonathan Brown asks whether the race really was the unrivalled success it was deemed to be.
A global audience of millions tuned in to watch Yorkshire’s two days in the limelight.
An estimated 3.3million people lined the routes of stage one and two, as the world’s greatest cyclists powered past the natural and man-made landmarks that help make our county so unique.
But now, five months after the television crews, sporting media and foreign spectating contingent packed up to follow the Tour de France roadshow to its Parisian finale, the UK is beginning to make sense of the impact this great spectacle had.
A report released by organisers, led by Leeds City Council and supported by UK Sport, Welcome to Yorkshire, Transport for London and TDFHUB2014 Ltd, was launched yesterday revealing that the Tour’s three-day visit brought an estimated boost of £102m to the Yorkshire economy, while the UK as a whole benefitted to the tune of £130m. Huge figures that are great news for all concerned.
When seen in the context of the Grand Depart’s original £27m budget – comprised of £10m from Central Government, £11m from Yorkshire councils and £6m from Transport for London – Yorkshire has seemingly cashed in.
Final figures on whether the event came in on budget have yet to be released, although Sir Rodney Walker, former chair of the Government’s TDFHUB2014 Ltd, revealed that the overall spend could be £3m more than planned yesterday.
“I think overall we always said the event could cost, over the three days, £27m and I think it would turn out to be about £30m but by any measure, to get £130m of measurable benefit isn’t a bad turnaround,” he said.
He explained that while TDFHUB2014 under spent by £900,000 – a sum which will be redistributed to local authorities to help cover costs – Yorkshire’s councils will likely have to split a multi-million pound bill.
Admittedly, an overspend of £3m relative to Yorkshire’s cut of the UK’s economic boost is small particularly when spread out between over 20 local authorities, but in times of austerity there are sure to be doubters.
Sir Rodney claims some local authorities made “quite a deliberate push to invest in doing more”, which has seen some areas benefit more than others.
Nevertheless following the examples of the 1992 Barcelona and 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, he expects the boost to Yorkshire to last as long as 10 years, while he has stuck by his belief that in the years to come, once trade and business deals from the Grand Depart are realised, Yorkshire’s overall benefit will be closer to £150m.
“Of an investment of £30m it’s difficult to say that it wasn’t a success,” he said. “There will be those who spent money trying to attract business that didn’t work but we are talking about an event that brought in 3m people.”
The report even goes as far as to suggest that returning visitors to Yorkshire over the next two years will contribute a further £24m to the region’s coffers.
Not all businesses claim to have seen an uplift in trade from Le Tour. The report shows how the accommodation sector received a £20m boost thanks to the event, while on race days some cultural, sports, souvenir and other tourist destinations experienced drops in trade. Overall visitors spent £87.9m in the county during the event while most sectors saw a boost before and after the race.
Since the race, the stunning TV images of the peloton riding from Leeds to Harrogate via the Dales on July 5, and from historic York to Sheffield the following day, appear to have helped to establish the county as a tourist destination for all comers including cyclists.
Cycling shops have blossomed and cycling clubs in places like Ilkley and Holmfirth have boomed at a time when British Cycling says 2m people are now riding regularly as wider Yorkshire bids for a sustained two-wheeled legacy.
Gary Verity, Welcome to Yorkshire’s chief executive, led the initial bid for the Grand Depart. He said: “There are benefits for the county which are impossible to measure – the profile of Yorkshire around the world has never been higher.”
He was backed from the outset by Coun Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council, who acknowledged yesterday that embarking on a Grand Depart bid in times of austerity was a “massive risk”.
Aside from boosting the economy, the event saw 100 organisations across the country collaborate – something that amid cuts to local government spending could prove a vital legacy.
Coun Wakefield said this has shown among other things that “local authorities can come together and successfully pull off a great sporting event in Yorkshire.”
The fruits of collaboration notably led to the arts-centred Yorkshire Festival 2014, which attracted 800,000 visitors, as well as a Yorkshire-wide emergency service response plan led by West Yorkshire Police. Mark Milsom, assistant chief constable of West Yorkshire Police, said: “The big legacy is that bringing together of all those services and places and acting as Yorkshire.”
The true cost of the broader emergency service response will not be released until the New Year, although overtime costs within the ambulance service, fire service and police regionally were not covered by the event’s budget and are likely to hit six figures.
But as UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl puts it, “hosting major events is an investment, not a cost”. The sports chief even went as far as to compare the Grand Depart’s success with that of the £9billion London Olympics.
“It’s one of the UK’s greatest sporting achievements. We all look back at London 2012 and this is up there with that,” she said.
On the back of significant investment, Yorkshire excelled and defied the odds in turning around one of the great sporting events and grabbing the headlines.
Amid talk of devolution and at a time when Yorkshire pride has never been so evident, all anyone wants to know now is what will be next to visit God’s Own County.
THE TOUR OF YORKSHIRE LATEST
The host towns or cities selected to be the start and finish points of the first ever Tour of Yorkshire international bike race are soon to be confirmed.
The three-day spectacle, confirmed as part of the UCI world cycling body’s 2015 calendar from May 1 to 3, will take place over the next three years at least and is hoped to drive Yorkshire’s cycling legacy forward.
Welcome to Yorkshire is in the midst of planning next year’s debut race, with key agreements in the process of being signed off and announcements of start and finish points expected in the next fortnight.
Officials from ASO, which will partner Welcome to Yorkshire in running the race, visited the region once again this week and will return for talks next week.
Six start and finish points have been earmarked for the three days of racing but the tourism agency is remaining coy on where exactly it will run.
Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “It’s not going to be the same route every year and we hope it will go to a number of places that the Tour de France didn’t visit, for example the east of Yorkshire and the coast in particular but not exclusively that – like the North York Moors. We do have places in mind.”
Full routes will be revealed on January 21, which will mark 100 days before the Tour of Yorkshire begins.
Organisers are working to the model that 1million people will turn out on the roadside to watch the event’s debut over the three days.
Liz Nicholl, chief executive of UK Sport, said: “It will be a great opportunity for people to relive that moment and there will be a lot of yellow I’m sure.”
Organisers have said they will not seek Government funding for the race and that deals with sponsors and broadcasters are being pursued in line with a costed business plan, although it is not clear how much the event will cost to stage.
Bob Howden, president of British Cycling, said: “A new world-class race helps underline a commitment to cycling in all its forms.”
Visit www.letour.yorkshire.com for information.