Giro d'Italia: Extra £330k pumped into big spruce-up along route
More than £300,000 is to be spent cleaning up derelict sites on the Belfast route before the international Giro d'Italia races into the city.
Millions of sports and cycling fans around the world will be watching Ireland this May 9-11 as Belfast, Armagh, Dublin and beyond will be awash with all things pink as Giro fever takes hold.
Last year's Giro was broadcast in 165 countries, with an estimated global audience of 775 million people.
More than 200 of the top professional cyclists from across the globe will be in Northern Ireland to take part in the Giro d'Italia, which runs over three weeks.
The event is expected to be watched by up to 800m TV viewers.
The Department for Social Development will spend £330,000 to improve derelict sites on three main roads on the Belfast part of the route.
The areas included in the improvement plans are the Ormeau Road in south Belfast, the Shore Road in north Belfast and the Newtownards Road in the east of the city.
Previously, other areas on the route have benefited from announced funding.
The Belfast stages of the international cycling spectacular will need more than 1,000 volunteers to help pull off the event.
Day one of racing on May 9 will get under way at the Titanic Quarter and finish up at Belfast City Hall.
The next day the race runs from Belfast to the Causeway Coast and then back to Belfast City Hall and on to The Mall in Armagh on Sunday May 10, before finishing up in Dublin city centre.
Previously, there were fears expressed that the image of Northern Ireland would be damaged when viewers saw riders cycling past paramilitary murals and flags.
That concern prompted Alliance MLA Anna Lo to call for sectarian symbols to be removed from the route.
At the time, the European election candidate said: "Funding will be made available in towns along the route to improve the image of eyesores such as derelict buildings, but I have a bigger problem with images of paramilitary gunmen.
"Do we really want these images to be visible on the route when millions of people around the world will be watching the race on television?"
There have already been calls for European election posters to be removed during the world-famous race.