29 September 2015

I was invited onto Sky News today for a live discussion following the Mayor of London’s decision to turn down the chance to host the 2017 Tour de France.

Why though? Was it just about the money? And why did it cost so much to stage in Yorkshire last year?

Kay Burley and I discuss…


Boris Johnson says London cyclists are a bigger priority than hosting the start of the 2017 Tour de France. The mayor turned down the opportunity to stage the event following reports that last year’s grand depart in Yorkshire resulted in losses of more than a million pounds.

I think you’ve got to make a choice, and I’m very glad that London is obviously recognised as the world capital of sport and of cycling, but in the end, 35 million pounds is a lot of money to spend on a one-off event when that could go into stuff that already… 35 million could do an awful lot of cycle lanes, can do an awful lot of things that will save lives.

Will Glendinning organised London’s grand depart in 2007, joins us now from central London. Thanks for joining us on Sky News this afternoon. Has the mayor made the right decision?

It’s a great shame, you know. I mean 2007 was fantastic, but it’s tricky. Major cities like London have to make decisions every day about what sporting events they host, what they turn down, and it’s tricky. I doubt it was just on money alone. I suspect other things were going on, but if it was turned down just on money I think there’s some serious questions about this insane figure of 25, 27 million pounds that’s being bandied around.

How much do you think it might have cost?

Well it certainly didn’t cost that in 2007. It may have cost that last year in Yorkshire. All these major events are becoming an increasingly difficult problem. We have the Olympics and World Cups and these major sporting events like the Tour de France. They’re hugely political, and they’re sort of committees upon committees upon organising committees and all the rest of it, and with that comes additional cost and complexity. I think there has to be a stock-take at some point otherwise there’s gonna be impossible to host any of these events.

As far as the mayor was concerned, actually his figure was even higher than that. He said 35 million quid. He’s quoted as saying, “The biggest cycling nut in the world,” that’s how he describes himself. But he said, “In the end, chucking 35 million quid on a one-off event, or putting down into long-term infrastructure improvements for cycling, stuff that will make cycling safer for decades to come, like the cycling superhighway, it’ a no-brainer.” He’s got a point, doesn’t he?

Well he has, absolutely. I think 35 million pounds or even 25 million pounds for a one-of event is lunacy. I don’t believe it would have cost that. I think there’s some questions to be asked about where those numbers came from. 25 million pounds, without a doubt, is better spent on long-term projects than a one-off event.

Okay, talk to us about what happened in 2007. What was the lead up to it? Why was it considered to be a good thing to do? And what was the benefit subsequently?

I think you have to remember that 2007 was a point in time, you know we had just won the Olympics. We hadn’t had the Olympics yet, or some of the road racing that had been seen. It definitely caught sort of the hearts and minds of London and of the nation. And I was lucky enough to be in one of the cars behind the peloton as it trundled down to Kent. And the roads were lined with people all the way. It was phenomenal. Now I don’t know if you’ll capture that same sort of impact or same kind of euphoria again. But it was definitely a point in time. I think there was a definite keenness to prove that London could host these events leading up to 2012. And I think that moment has passed. I think it can still be impactful, but I think that was the beauty that the 2007 event had.

Okay, now there were other times, other cities rather, in the United Kingdom that could have hosted the event. In the end it was thought that London would be the best option. They’ve decided against it. Is it time do you think for people like Edinburgh and Manchester to have another look?

I don’t think Edinburgh or Manchester are going to be shy about coming forward bidding for major sporting events. And I think they should. I think the whole of England, the whole of the UK is a great country as was proven last year in Yorkshire. The scenery was phenomenal. And these events can bring a great impact. It’s a bit of a shame that if Yorkshire did lose a million quid last year, and I think that needs looking at. But there’s no reason at all these events need to cost that amount of money. And I would encourage every city or any city to bid for these events if they want to.

Did you make money in 2007?

Me, personally?

No, not you personally, but was money made?

Yeah, I think there’s no disputes. I don’t have the figures, but I think there’s no disputing the impact it had on London and the southeast of England. I think the amount of impact can be debated, and it depends how you measure the figures. But I think if you’re gonna spend 25, 35 million that impact gets reduced, but I think if you can reduce the cost of staging these events, which is more than possible, the impact can be much greater.

Okay, thank you. Let’s take you straight to the city while we’re talking about money…