East Antrim towns, villages and hamlets are in for a shocking pink experience on May 10, when the Giro d’Italia rolls in to view.
And for sceptics wondering what’s so exciting about a few guys in cycle shorts pedalling past, the NI Tourist Board has embarked on a province-wide roadshow to get the message out that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of one of the biggest sporting events in the world.
Councils, communities, schools and businesses are being urged to think of the Giro on their doorstep in terms of football’s World Cup final being staged at Inver Park, Dixon Park or Taylors Avenue. Or the Superbowl in their own back yard
In the past week the roadshow has stopped off in Larne, Carrickfergus and Newtownabbey, promoting the opportunities the Giro presents. Not least, unprecedented exposure of the local tourism offer as footage of 200 of the world’s top professional cyclists racing along the Antrim coast is beamed by satellite to a global audience of 800 million in 174 countries.
The 140,000 visitor number anticipated is said to be very conservative and is likely to double, along with the projected £2.5 million visitor spend.
And NITB wants businesses and communities to grab a slice of the action, whether for trade or for fun. The tourist board’s events manager, Eddie Rowan, who has watched the Giro, says he believes it is unique.
“It’s not one of those big events where spectators are kept at a distance from the action by barriers. With the Giro, the public get up close and personal, right at the side of the road for the racing and able to mix with and chat with the riders when the teams are being introduced and before the various stages.”
Stephen Gallagher, from sporting events company Shadetree, revealed that the race itself will be preceded by a 1.5k “caravan” of sponsors’ vehicles which will stop off to distribute freebies and goodies including T-shirts, posters and keyrings.
Before and after the race – which starts at Titanic Quarter in the morning and extends 220k as far as Portrush and back along the Causeway coastal route to City Hall – local councils and traders will hold special Giro events, all themed in pink, which is the colour of the race leader’s jersey.
NITB chair Duncan McCausland is confident that Ulster will say “Si” to two weeks of carnevale up to the big event. “We might never see anything like it again,” he enthused, before adding mischievously: “They told me not to say this, but if the Giro is the success we expect it to be, we will put in a bid to host the start of the Tour de France.”