Brussels looks forward to hosting Tour de France’s Grand Départ
The cycling event will set off from Brussels in 2019, the 50th anniversary of Eddy Merckx’s first victory, bringing a huge boost to the local economy
Bringing people together
The tourism sector in Brussels and Flanders has welcomed the decision. The start itself, known as the Grand Départ, is over in one day, but the event will be surrounded by a week of associated entertainment, said Geert Cochez, CEO of VisitBrussels.
Research into the start of the Tour in Utrecht in 2015 showed an economic return to the city worth €34 million, with more than 900,000 extra visitors. “The event has a lot of benefits,” Cochez said. Brussels mayor Yvan Mayeur put the estimated cost of staging the event at €5 million.
The exact route of the Départ has yet to be fixed, but the municipality of Sint-Pieters-Woluwe has already made a bid. Merckx was born and brought up there, where his parents had a grocer’s shop. The council has been in touch with Tour organisers, mayor Benoit Cerexhe said.
The Tour de France is the biggest cycling event in the world and it draws 80% of the world’s media attention to the sport, according to Stef Gits, spokesperson for Toerisme Vlaanderen, quoting research by Cycling News. “If as a tourist destination you can manage to pick up some of that attention, that’s fantastic,” he said.
For Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, meanwhile, the event has a wider significance. “Both Brussels and Paris have been victims in recent years of senseless violence,” she said. “It is sports events like the Tour de France that bring people together again and heal the wounds that once seemed incurable.”
Photo: The start of the second stage of the 2010 Tour de France in Brussels in July 2010
© Michel Krakowski/Belga
number of times Merckx won the Tour de France
first Tour of Flanders
Merckx becomes first Belgian to win the Tour de France in 30 years