Washington DC's Mayor Adrian Fenty talks about the city's 2012 Giro d'Italia bid
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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Washington DC's Mayor talks about the 2012 Giro d'Italia bid

by VeloNation Press at 2:35 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia
 

There has been much speculation in recent days about whether or not Washington DC will host the start of the 2012 Giro d'Italia with no conclusive answer to date. While purists in the sport cringe at the thought of bringing an iconic European race to American soil, the vision of race director Angelo Zomegnan has caught the imagination of the cycling world, and has his event well positioned to make history in two years' time. VeloNation was fortunate to speak to the key figure in the US efforts to bring the Italian Grand Tour to the Nation's Capital, its Mayor Adrian Fenty.

Last week there was a reception held at the Italian embassy where both sides provided an update on the working group's efforts to bring this mega-event to the United States.  Initially Italian media conglomerate Il Sole 24 Ore reported that the gathering was to announce confirmation of the organizer's plan, but after reverberating across the Internet for several hours it was revealed not to be the case.

While Fenty has a personal interest in cycling and triathlon, he was quite clear on his reasons for advocating the Giro start in Washington DC: Health and Tourism. "It’s a tremendous opportunity for the country as well as the District to show the world what we have to offer," he explained to VeloNation.

"I have always been an avid supporter of sporting events not only because of my personal involvement, but also because they represent an opportunity to get residents involved in athletic activities as well as bring in additional revenue to the city," he explained.

"Both the Marine Corps Marathon and the Nation’s Triathlon are endurance events with a major draw nationally and internationally. Hosting them in the District has attracted thousands of spectators which no doubt gave our local hotels and restaurants an opportunity to benefit from the enthusiasm of residents and visitors."

Starting Italy's Grand Tour in Washington DC would provide a huge opportunity to promote the city as a tourist destination to the Giro d'Italia's European audience. Likewise, the Giro organization will look to endear their race to the American public as they watch it travel across the world and traverse the Italian countryside. Cycling's Grand Tours have been successfully used as rolling advertisements for tourism in the areas they visit for decades, and Fenty sees this as an incredible opportunity for the city to reach a new audience.

In 2007 when the Tour de France had its Grand Depart in London they projected the event would bring more than 100 million dollars in revenue to the city. The start also coincided with Britain's cycling boom that has continued to grow each year.

Preliminary economic impact and research figures from the Tour Down Under in Australia earlier this year show the economic impact of the race was $41.5 million. While the six day race is twice as long as the Giro's three days planned for the District (presentation, prologue, stage 1), the Italian race has been around for more than a century and will attract a crowd representative of one of cycling's Monuments. Washington DC's accessible location, as opposed to a long and expensive flight to Australia, would also help the occasion to attract considerably larger crowds that will likely to come before and/or remain after the event heads home.

Fenty understands that in addition to the positive economic impact the city has a chance to make cycling history. "It is an absolute honor to be considered as a serious contender in hosting Giro d’Italia, considering none of the three Grand Tours - Giro d'Italia, Tour de France or Vuelta a España - have ever begun outside of Europe," he said.

The ING Direct Capital Criterium in 2008 was the last professional bike race held in Washington DC, and it was a photo from that event that inspired Zomegnan to consider the idea of having the Giro head to the US. "The District is a phenomenal backdrop for cycling events," continued Fenty.

"The success of the ING Direct Capital Criterium and other races held in the city have showcased the city’s capacity to successfully support and execute cycling events. That said, the District stands ready and able to take on a larger scale event [like the Giro]."

Several cities have been mentioned in the running for stages of the Italian Grand Tour, but the working committee confirmed to VeloNation last week that the US portion would consist of the team presentation, prologue and stage one, with all three taking place inside the Nation's Capital.

Unlike some other major international sports events, bringing the Italian Grand Tour to Washington DC won't require the city to dedicate considerable financial resources to build or modify venues, or sport complexes. The proposed prologue and circuit race courses used by the Giro would run on the District's existing road infrastructure. The city is home to many massive events including the annual Independence Day celebration on the National Mall and the Presidential Inauguration. The city has proven it is fully capable of handling the influx of cycling fans that would converge to witness history.

Logistics for bringing the Giro to the Nation's Capital will be a monumental task, and the single biggest hurtle for organizers. Zomegnan has visited Washington DC three times in as many months, bringing with him legendary Italian frame builder Ernesto Colnago for support during last week's trip. Both sides are committed to making this happen, but they still haven't gotten far enough to make an official announcement.

"Any first-time endeavor comes with its share of challenges," concluded the Mayor, "but I am confident that both the Giro and the District can work together to successfully execute our common vision of enhancing the history and pride of the Giro with the regal setting that is our great nation’s capital."

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