David Parkin on Yorkshire welcoming the World and a dog from Donny

David Parkin on Yorkshire welcoming the World and a dog from Donny

IT is pretty easy to recall the warm glow and camaraderie that appeared to envelope most of Yorkshire when it hosted the Grand Depart of the Tour de France in 2014.

But I’ve been trying to remember what the mood was in the run-up to those extraordinary three days in July when the sun shined and it seemed most of Yorkshire lined the hundreds of miles of the route which snaked around every corner of the region.

Were we all a bit cynical about whether it could be a success?

Did we even care that it was happening?

I think we probably did because the estimated crowds of 4.8 million that turned out over that sunny long weekend were not mobilised at the last minute.

Welcome to Yorkshire were key to that, with the tourism organisation behind months of not just positive PR but roadshows which took the story of the world’s biggest annual sporting event to every city, town, village and hamlet in the host region.

I could be wrong but I’m not getting the sense that the UCI Cycling World Championships have galvanised the Yorkshire public in the same way.

In the run-up to the Grand Depart five years ago (doesn’t time fly) many people were planning where they were going to watch the race from and yellow painted bicycles, bunting and even houses painted with spots sprung up along the route.

The UCI Cycling World Championships, or ‘Worlds’ as modern parlance will have us call them, is the biggest sporting event in the UK this year.

And while some of the races will take in large swathes of Yorkshire’s urban and country landscapes, the event is centred around Harrogate.

Most of the key roads in the centre of the historic spa town have already been closed and will remain so until the event ends on September 29.

A huge ‘fan park’ has been created on the Stray which, knowing Harrogate, has given dog walkers the hump.

And the closure of the main road into the town along West Park has, I’m sure annoyed locals too.

I can’t blame them.

Well where the hell are the women in sports gear going to park their Range Rovers when they want to meet to get the gossip over coffee and smoothies in Weetons deli?

What about the men in red trousers and gilets? Where are they going to be able to promenade of an evening?

Despite predictions that around a million spectators will descend on Harrogate over the next eight days I know some local shop owners have been worried that the event will hit their trade.

There is a view that you can moan or you can just crack on and make the best of a unique occasion.

Like the boutique (I only call it that because I don’t know what it sells) on West Park that has set up a gin bar inside.

The difference between the UCI event and the Grand Depart and its legacy, the annual Tour de Yorkshire, appears to be the involvement of Welcome to Yorkshire.

ASO, the organiser of the Tour de France, was involved in a partnership with the regional tourism organisation which was even stronger for the close friendship that developed between ASO boss Christian Prudhomme and then Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity.

The UCI appears to be running things themselves for the World Championships.

Welcome to Yorkshire is mentioned as an “institutional partner” on the website but I don’t know what that involves.

Given the key role played by Sir Gary Verity in the success of the Tour de France in Yorkshire, I wonder how he might have tried to seize the limelight at the World Championships?

But then since he staged his own less than grand depart from the tourism body earlier this year, we’ll never know.

I hope the Yorkshire public embrace and enjoy the UCI World Championships.

I hope the sun shines, the races are competitive and Yorkshire is showcased to the world.

And I hope that visitors to Yorkshire enjoy some wonderful hospitality,.

If they avoid the front of house service in the Ivy and the bar staff in Gino D’Acampo’s then they can savour some great local experiences, whether it is a coffee in Weetons, a pint in the Coach and Horses or the Fat Badger, posh chicken and chips in La Feria or a hearty meal in William and Victoria’s.

The signs say: ‘Harrogate Welcomes The World’ and I hope it, and Yorkshire, does.

:::

FORGIVE the brevity of this week’s blog.

My Mum had a knee replacement operation last week.

It gave me another insight into how incredible our oft-slated National Health Service is and how amazing its staff are.

She is currently staying with us while she recuperates and is not proving an easy patient.

I suppose a lifetime of doing things for others means that you don’t find it easy to accept help yourself.

So I’ve spent most of this week attempting to stop her tossing her crutches away and emptying the dishwasher, dead-heading flowers in the garden or tackling a mountain of ironing.

Our adoption of a rescue dog has added to the drama.

Particularly when he staged a couple of escapes from the garden.

He’s from Romania via Doncaster.

I’m not sure which experience traumatised him the most.

So I’m just off to get my pinny on and make her another cup of tea while also keeping one eye on the dog looking for weaknesses in the garden fence like Steve McQueen in The Great Escape.

Have a great weekend.

 

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1 Comment

  1. David: As a lifelong fan of both riding a bike and following the sport (since 1966), the arrival of the TdF in Yorkshire, the subsequent TdY (I’ve ridden all of the accompanying sportives) has been beyond my wildest 1960s schoolboy dreams. But, once again, you’ve hit the nail on the head with this week’s blog. The build-up to the Grand Depart was both exciting and very much in the media. This time around, as far I can see there’s been a stony silence. Other commitments mean I can’t do much supporting this weekend, but both my wife and I will be at the roadside for the events during the week and next weekend. And I can understand the frustrations over road closures. Sir Gary’s charm and eloquence on the economic benefits smoothed the proverbial tarmac five years ago. Not so sure this time around. I know Marie Christopher at ‘WtY’ is doing her utmost. So let’s hope the coming week and a bit don’t leave us all feeling somewhat deflated.

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