David Parkin on Harrogate welcoming the world and a powerhouse performance

David Parkin on Harrogate welcoming the world and a powerhouse performance

THE slogan adopted by the town where cycling’s UCI Road World Championships took place last week was: “Harrogate Welcomes The World”.

Although for those of us who know Harrogate and those who live there, that motto could have been caveated with the words: “But make sure you are polite, form orderly queues and don’t drop litter on the Stray.”

The spa town did actually lay on a great welcome for the biggest sporting event in the UK this year, even if the weather hadn’t quite bought into the deal that Yorkshire should be at its best.

The week-long event enjoyed two gloriously sunny days and several days of torrential rain.

The worst of the weather was reserved for the event’s climax, the men’s elite road race on Sunday.

It tipped it down all day meaning the start in Leeds was slightly delayed while parts of the route had to be altered because of flooding, including missing out on Buttertubs, iconic from its role in the Tour de France Grand Depart.

But that didn’t stop thousands of people lining the route and heading for the climax in Harrogate where the drenched riders did nine laps around the town centre as enthusiastic crowds under brollies and waterproofs cheered with vigour.

When I mentioned to a local resident that I had never seen so many cagoules in Harrogate I received a clipped answer: “They must have been tourists.”

Apparently the required uniform is a Schöffel gilet.

It is a German clothing brand beloved of the country sporting set but worn by a much wider constituency, including many whose only experience of shooting is selfies.

It sells particularly well in Harrogate because you get some right country types there.

And while I’ll never buy a Schöffel gilet, at least I now know how to type an umlaut key on my laptop.

You’ve got to be grateful for small mercies.

I thought Harrogate and Yorkshire embraced the UCI event with enthusiasm despite the challenges the weather threw at it.

The ‘fan park’ on the Stray, with bars, food and shopping outlets, had to be closed on the final day due to flooding and the closing music concert was also canned for the same reason.

Local businesses and residents have been kicking off because of lost trade and closed roads.

I wonder whether the way the event was structured – between the UCI, Welcome to Yorkshire and a company called Yorkshire 2019 – meant that it missed a unified approach to engaging with the community and getting wider buy-in from the people of Yorkshire.

It is all about winning hearts and minds – witness the 2014 Tour de France Grand Depart and subsequent annual Tour de Yorkshire races.

The UCI led the whole thing and I’m sure the worldwide cycling community was watching.

But isn’t it about connecting with those who aren’t obsessed with the sport? Shouldn’t that be the wider target?

Will Yorkshire 2019 leave a real legacy?

We’ll have to see.

:::

MY legacy from the UCI World Championships was a hangover.

Actually, only a slightly fuzzy head.

A combination of driving rain outside, a TV in the corner of the restaurant of the Hotel du Vin in Harrogate, generous and hospitable hosts from Barclays and great company around our table meant that I didn’t move very far during the final race on Sunday.

I was invited by Caroline Pullich and Karen Swainston of Barclays.

I call them the Cagney and Lacey of regional banking and, unlike some of the names I’ve given people, they seem to like it.

They haven’t added it to their business cards yet, but they may be working on it.

The pair do banking in an ‘old fashioned’ way.

And that is not a criticism, but a compliment.

They build and sustain relationships, enjoy the company of their customers and have an extensive network of key players across the region.

So Lord knows why they invited me.

But I don’t need to be asked twice, so donned my cagoule and jumped on a train from Leeds to Harrogate last Sunday morning.

It seemed like most of the rest of the population was doing the same as the carriages were uncomfortably packed.

I had read that extra services were being put on by Northern Rail but it didn’t feel like it.

There was no space left to even stand by the time the train reached Weeton.

The platform was busy and given the promised extra services you might have expected travellers to wait a short time for the next train.

But French tourists do things differently.

I found myself with my face pressed to the window while a Gallic cycling fan leaned up against me.

He was so close I could feel the baguette he had brought for his lunch on the Stray.

By the time I reached the Hotel du Vin I was ready to relax and found I was on a lively table with guests including David and Elizabeth Kerfoot, former oil entrepreneurs, Andrew Palmer the ex-head of the CBI in Yorkshire who now does consultancy and one-time Minister of Sport, Gerry Sutcliffe.

David Kerfoot is the chairman of the North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership and the next High Sheriff of North Yorkshire.

He will bring a down-to-earth approach to the role, which is exactly what it needs.

After lunch some guests decided to venture outside to watch the closing stages of the race while I elected to stay put.

Over a bottle of red Gerry and I were collectively able to sort out who should be the next chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, how devolution in the region will work and who should be the Yorkshire mayors and what major infrastructure projects the Government needs to fund to boost the Northern Powerhouse.

So forget your high-priced consultants, over-paid civil servants and over-confident headhunters.

They are not needed.

Gerry and I have sorted it.

All for the very moderate price of a bottle of Tempranillo.

:::

JUST a few weeks after I mentioned Harrogate-born Peter Jackson, chief executive of gaming group Flutter Entertainment – the owner of Paddy Power and Betfair – his already stellar career took another step forward this week.

Flutter is to buy The Stars Group (TSG), which owns Sky Bet which has major operations in Leeds, in a £10bn deal which will create the world’s largest online betting company.

The deal gives the new group revenues of £3.8bn and four million customers in 100 different markets, plus, crucially, the opportunity to target the new and rapidly expanding US market for sports betting.

These kind of deals can sometimes take ages to get all parties to back but investors gave immediate approval to Flutter’s takeover of TSG which will involve a tie-up with the US broadcaster Fox Sports, run by Rupert Murdoch’s son Lachlan and Flutter’s American business called FanDuel.

It is a massive deal in a market ripe for worldwide growth.

I’ve yet to meet Peter Jackson, but I must buy his father Richard a drink next time I bump into him.

:::

SO farewell then Peter Sissons.

The veteran broadcaster died this week at the age of 77.

It seemed like he had been on our screens forever, charting every significant event for the last four decades.

And a glance at his background suggests that isn’t so far from the truth.

Liverpool-born Sissons joined ITN in the 1960s before moving to the BBC in 1989 to present Question Time and the Six O’Clock News.

He went to school with future Beatles Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison and remained friends with them in later life.

Sir Paul McCartney called Sissons “a talented news presenter with a great sense of humour”.

He went to Oxford University but returned to his home city to work as a bus conductor in the summer holidays, later saying the experience of dealing with stroppy passengers prepared him for handling difficult interviewees when he became a broadcaster.

If Sissons was asked by passengers: “Does this bus stop at the Pierhead?”

He’d reply “Well if it doesn’t we’ll all get wet.”

His journalistic career began when he joined ITN in 1964 as a writer, and he became a reporter three years later.

As a foreign correspondent, he was wounded by gunfire in Biafra in 1968 and became presenter of ITN’s News at One in 1978. 

When Channel 4 was launched in 1982, he was chosen to present their nightly news programme and in 1989 Sissons interviewed the Iranian ambassador about the fatwa issued to author Salman Rushdie which led to it being extended to him too.

After joining the BBC he took over from Sir Robin Day as host of Question Time and went on to present the Nine O’Clock News and 10 O’Clock News which saw him face criticism for wearing a burgundy-coloured tie rather than the customary black when breaking the news of the Queen Mother’s death.

Sissons had that unique ability to be able to connect with people on every level, not be cowed by authority or patronise viewers.

And he just came across as a really good bloke.

Someone you would enjoy talking to.

I bet he was a brilliant dinner party guest.

My friend Nathan Lane of Campfire sent me a clip of Peter Sissons caught on camera in an unguarded moment while fronting BBC News 24.

He was viewing footage of his fellow Scouser and TV presenter Anne Robinson, who presented the quiz show The Weakest Link.

It is 10 seconds of hilarious brilliance.

 

Have a great weekend.

 

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