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It was hardly the most surprising news to have created headlines in Britain in the last few days, but when Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, finally confirmed that the Grand Dpart of the 2007 Tour de France will take place in London it did put an end to a nervous wait for cycling fans in the UK. Speaking at his weekly conference at the futuristic City Hall on the banks of the Thames, Livingstone expressed his excitement about London hosting the Grand Dpart of next year's Tour, and also the boost he expected the event to give to British cycling.
Although Mayor Livingstone was unable to give details about location and route details for next year's Grand Dpart, he did suggest that it would not be dissimilar to the bid document originally presented by Transport for London (TfL) to the Tour organisation. That document proposed a prologue taking place in the centre of the city based on The Mall, and a road stage starting in London and finishing on the Kent coast.
Speaking from 11.15 this morning, at exactly the same time as Tour organisers ASO were making a similar announcement in Qatar prior to the stage race they run there, Livingstone said he had high hopes for the Tour's visit to London. "Hosting the Grand Dpart of the legendary French cycle race will raise the profile of cycling in the capital, attract visitors and promote the capital as a venue for international sporting events," said the mayor, with his perspective clearly on the 2012 Olympic Games.
"Bringing the Tour to London will massively raise the profile of professional cycling in this country," Livingstone continued. "We must maximise the impact of this event by attracting as many visitors as possible, but also by giving kids the opportunity to witness the excitement of the sport and getting them out on their bikes.
He estimated that as many as three million people would turn out to see the Grand Dpart and said he is hoping that every hotel bed in the city will be filled.
Details of stage locations and route timings are due to be given in a further press conference held in conjunction with ASO on February 9 in London. Livingstone repeatedly refused to be drawn on any of these details, but did reveal that he had cost £1.5 million to attract the Tour to London, but stated that the British capital should reap as much as 10 times that amount in tourist and other spin-off revenues from the race.
Continually pressed for details about the route, Livingstone refused to confirm whether the race would pass through Trafalgar Square and past Nelson's Column. "But the Column is very high and it is unlikely that Nelson wouldn't be able to see something of the race," Livingstone cheekily admitted.
"The benefit of the race coming to London coming to London is that you would be able to get those iconic shots of the race and they would be seen around the world. Frankly, you'd be mad to bring the race to London and not do this," he added.
2007 Tour de France to start in LondonClose
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