The whole of Ireland intends to pursue a joint North-South bid to host the Grand Depart of the Tour de France in 2026 or 2027.
Catherine Martin, Irealand's minister for tourism, culture, arts, gaeltacht, sport and media and Gordon Lyons Northern Irealand minister for the economy have submitted a formal expression of interest to Tour de France organiser Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO).
If any potential bid was to be successful, it would then be the first time the Tour de France has visited Ireland since 1998.
According to a report (opens in new tab) by RTE Sport, hosting the opening stages of a future Tour de France is expected to be a significant boost to tourism, economy and sports across the two countries. Although environmental groups are expected to cast aspersions on the inevitably large environmental impact that an Irish Grand Depart would have.
Martin said: “Hosting the world's greatest cycle race would be an exciting opportunity for the island of Ireland. I was delighted to meet Minister Lyons again during my recent trip to Belfast and to agree to express a joint interest in hosting three full stages for Le Grand Départ of the Tour de France, ideally in 2026 or 2027.”
She added: “Our shared experience in hosting major sports events, our cooperative approach in marketing the entire island of Ireland as a tourism destination, and the wonderful scenery and céad míle fáilte that awaits visitors to Ireland could all combine to create an amazing all-island event."
Meanwhile Gordon Lyons admitted that hosting the Tour de France would be an excellent opportunity for Northern Ireland to feature on the sporting world stage.
"Securing the opening stages of the Tour de France would be a fantastic opportunity for Northern Ireland to feature on the world stage and add to the growing list of major sporting events that have come here in recent years,” he said.
He added: “People will fondly remember the success of the Giro d'Italia 'Big Start’ in 2014, and I am confident that together we would be able to successfully host the Grand Depart.
"Major events such as this not only bring about huge economic benefits but give us a tremendous opportunity to showcase everything that is great about Northern Ireland.”
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