The UK's hosting of the Grand Départ of the 2007 Tour de France should inject a massive £115 million into the economies of London and Kent, according to Transport for London, the body responsible for the capital's transport system. The Tour's Grand Départ will be the biggest sporting event to be held in London ahead of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012. An estimated two million visitors are expected to visit London and Kent when the Tour is on between July 6 and 8.
The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, has been a proponent of cycling as an alternative form of transport in the British capital during his time in office. "I am proud that London will play a part in the long history of the Tour de France, and the London Grand Départ underlines the capital's status as a venue for world sporting events ahead of the Olympics in 2012," he said.
"The Tour will be great for London, showcasing the UK capital to the world, bringing huge amounts of visitors to London and encouraging more Londoners to take to two wheels. Cycling is increasing here more than any other city in Europe with a 72 per cent increase in the last five years. We want to use the excitement of the Grand Depart to help us persuade even more people to cycle, not just as a sport but as an everyday and non-polluting way of getting around the city."
Triple Olympic medallist and TfL cycling ambassador Bradley Wiggins is already targeting the opening time trial of the race, saying, "I am delighted the Tour de France is coming to the city I grew up in and where I used to cycle around as a boy. I was inspired to take up cycling by the Tour's last visit to the UK in 1994 and I am sure next year's race will inspire many more people to take to two wheels.
"I rode the Tour for the first time last year and it was a tough three weeks, but I can't wait to ride the Prologue in the city where I grew up."
The three days of the Grand Départ include the Tour de France opening ceremony, prologue and stage 1. The prologue on Saturday, July 7 will be a 7.9 kilometre (five mile) lap of central London, starting on Whitehall and taking in some of London's most famous landmarks including the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park before finishing on the Mall.
Stage 1 on Sunday, July 8 will start in central London, passing close to a variety of historic and contemporary sites including Big Ben, the London Eye, St Paul's Cathedral, the Gherkin and crossing Tower Bridge, close to City Hall. The race will then travel through Bermondsey, Deptford, Greenwich and Erith before travelling to Kent. In Kent, the tour will pass thorough Dartford, Medway, Tunbridge Wells and Ashford before the stage finish in Canterbury.
The London organisers believe the London Grand Départ will be the most spectacular stage of the whole Tour.
More information: www.tourdefrancelondon.com