YORKSHIRE’S triumph in hosting the Tour de France is adding to Britain’s growing reputation for organising successful international sporting events that boosts the UK’s standing on the world stage, the Prime Minister said today.
David Cameron said it was clear that “tour fever” had taken hold in Yorkshire after meeting shoppers in the centre of Wetherby.
And he forecast a huge surge in interest in cycling following the weekend’s action.
It is barely a decade since the UK faced global humiliation when plans to host the 2005 World Athletics Championships had to be scrapped with plans for venues in disarray.
But Mr Cameron said this weekend’s staging of the Tour de France was one of a series of sporting events showcasing the UK at its best.
He said: “I think our reputation for hosting sporting events is very strong and frankly getting stronger.
“The good news is it’s not just the Tour de France we’ve also got the Ryder Cup coming up, the 2015 Rugby World Cup, the 2017 athletic championships that are going to take place in the Olympic Park.
“And I think what the Olympics taught us is if you get these events right they are the most amazing showcase for your country and they encourage a lot of investment and tourism and if you look at the tourism numbers since the Olympics they have really gone up.
“This is a fantastic spotlight on Yorkshire specifically. You are going to have 3.5 billion people watching the start of the Tour de France and you can’t think of a better way really to promote and advertise the wonders of Yorkshire.”
Accompanied by Elmet and Rothwell MP Alec Shelbrooke, Mr Cameron was mobbed by shoppers keen to take “selfie” style pictures with the Prime Minister.
Mr Cameron said: “There’s definitely ‘tour fever’, I love all the knitted yellow jerseys, the bunting, the fact that all the schools have got involved.
“There’s a big health benefit to all this potentially as well. Why do we want to host these events? We want to encourage excellence in sport, we want to encourage young people to take part in sport, we want to advertise Yorkshire but we also want to get the health benefits.
“The truth is lots of people who watch tournaments then go out and think about taking exercise in that way.
“So when you have a swimming tournament suddenly everyone’s rushing out and buying swimwear. When you have bicycle events like the Olympics or the tour you will see massive sales and uplift in people taking part and wanting to take part which is very positive.”
Mr Cameron said that while the Government was spending £10 million to help meet the costs of staging the Tour de France Grand Depart that represented a “good investment” when compared to the potential returns.
Earlier in the day, Nick Clegg told business leaders that the Grand Depart was already making an impression before the event had even properly begun.
“I don’t think we could have done much more razzmatazz than last night. It put the Oscar ceremony to shame, the team presentation.
“Without being flippant, I was talking to Monsieur Prudhomme and the other big cheeses of the Tour de France world and they are lovely people but they were saying quite authentically, look, we have never had this kind of welcome before, they were really bowled over by the warmth, the enthusiasm.
“That is contagious.”
Mr Clegg said that if even half the projected global audience watched the Grand Depart that would “shift the dial massively”.
“it means you’ve got millions upon millions of people who today probably can’t locate Yorkshire on a map who will suddenly see it in their own living rooms.
“We have to capitalise on it,” he said.
“Optimism breeds optimism.”