GIRO D’ITALIA 2014, UN FORTE IMPULSO AL TURISMO DEL NORD IRLANDA
Tourism minister Arlene Foster has said the Giro d’Italia will give Northern Ireland tourism a welcome boost.
The race, one of the most prestigious and historic events on the world cycling calendar, will hold its opening stages in Belfast next year.
The ‘Grande Partenza’ – or Big Start – will take place in Belfast on 9 May 2014.
Competitors, who compete for the maglia rosa – or the pink jersey – will race through the streets of Belfast on day one.
Starting at the Titanic Building the route will take the riders out to Stormont and back to the finish line at Belfast City Hall.
On day two of the event the route will take competitors up through Antrim, Ballymena, Ballymoney to Bushmills and back through the iconic Glens of Antrim to Larne, Carrick and Whiteabbey to the stage finish line at city hall in a 218km endurance stage.
And on the third stage the cyclists will race from Armagh to Dublin before heading back to Italy to complete the 21-stage race on 1 June.
Over 200 riders from more than 30 countries are set to line up in Belfast for the race, which is being held outside mainland Europe for the first time in its history.
Tourism Minister Arlene Foster, on Monday, travelled to Milan for the official launch of the race.
She said: “The route will take in iconic locations in Northern Ireland, including Titanic Belfast, Parliament Buildings, the Giant’s Causeway and the North Coast Road before moving on to the picturesque and historic setting of Armagh and onwards to Dublin.
“Northern Ireland’s high-quality facilities, infrastructure and hospitality all set against the backdrop of our outstanding scenery, is putting us into a strong position in the global tourism and sports events industry.
“Having hosted this year’s World Police and Fire Games, hailed as the best and friendliest in history, and having held last year’s hugely successful Irish Open golf tournament our reputation for staging world-class sporting events is riding high.”
First organised in 1909 to promote the newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport, the Giro gained prominence and is now one of the world’s largest sporting events, with 12.5m live spectators over the three week event.
The event is watched in 165 countries across all continents reaching 125m households and a global accumulated audience of 775m people.
The minister added: “The organisers have designed exceptional opening stage routes in Northern Ireland and I am sure they will challenge the riders, entertain the thousands of spectators and showcase our tourism assets to the millions who will watch on television.
Everyone in Northern Ireland is looking forward to welcoming this hugely exciting competition to our shores and to embracing the passion, colour and atmosphere that comes with it.
“I have no doubt that the worldwide media exposure the race will bring for Northern Ireland will encourage more visitors to come and explore Northern Ireland for themselves and try out our excellent cycling facilities.”
Welcoming the route announcement, Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy said: “I am delighted to support this hugely significant international sporting event.
“The commitment and resources from my department along with the support from many other quarters in Northern Ireland is set to create a sporting legacy that everyone can take pride in for many years to come.”