Giro d'Italia: Cycling coup puts us on the map
Published 12/05/2014 | 08:30
The Giro d'Italia has come and gone, but it has left a host of happy memories in an exceptional weekend of expertise, stamina and courage on wheels. It is still hard for many people to grasp the significance of this event.
This test of endurance and skill was beamed live to more than 130 countries, and even if the Northern Ireland weather was typically wet for springtime, there is no doubt that our magnificent scenery and warm hospitality was shown to a massive world audience.
Northern Ireland once again shone, despite the rainfall, and people showed that in real terms the weather certainly did not spoil the event.
Some cynics might have felt a little blasé about an Italian race which somehow found its way onto Irish soil, but it was a brilliant coup for those who brought this prestigious event to our shores, and it proved once again that we can do big events very well.
The Northern Ireland people on all sides really can rise to the big occasion. Tens of thousands turned out to line the routes, and people everywhere swathed themselves, and the landscape, in Giro d'Italian pink.
The reaction was so good that it must make many people feel that if only we could put our past and our political differences behind us, there is no knowing what a truly united Northern Ireland could achieve.
Some people might query the huge cost of bringing the event here, but in so many ways the benefits are immense.
The race has helped to put Northern Ireland on the map, and there is little doubt that thousands will have been impressed by our warmth and beautiful countryside, and that many will want to sample it for themselves.
There are so many memories to savour. They include the impressive first stage on Friday, then the gruelling sortie to the north coast and back on Saturday, and the final leg from Armagh to Dublin yesterday.
There were sad moments too, including the accident of the Irish rider Dan Martin and his colleagues. Happily, however, the vast majority of the memories are positive and happy.
One of the outstanding memories is the helicopter shot of the Antrim coast road and also the magnificent posse of horses galloping on the beach to try to keep up with the race.
This was a great event, superbly carried out. Well done, everybody!