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 immediate uplift in trade from Le Tour. The report explains 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 Grand Depart while most sectors did see a business 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.
The momentum of Le Tour looks set to continue to roll through the region thanks to the Cycle Yorkshire project, which is backed by 21 local authorities and aims to give everyone in the county access to a bike by 2023.
The Tour of Yorkshire race, a three-day event confirmed on the UCI world cycling body’s 2015 calendar, is also in the planning for May 1 to 3. Organisers Welcome to Yorkshire hope the race will bring 1m spectators to the roadside and further boost the county, reviving some of the enthusiasm seen this summer. An announcement on the six start and finish points is expected in the next fortnight.
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.