Belfast Telegraph

Giro d'Italia: Think pink and think big for a brighter future

By Steven Beacom

Driving along the Newtownards Road the other afternoon, I spotted four burly blokes in yellow coats tending a flowerbed.

Not a sight you see every day on that stretch.

Then again it's not every day that one of the biggest sporting events on the planet comes this way, and with Northern Ireland on show to millions of people around the world over the next few days, it's understandable that we should want the place to look at its best.

Hence the fab four making those flowers look all pretty.

Get the election posters down now boys and we're in business.

After what has seemed like years of build-up, the Giro d'Italia, cycling's second most famous race behind the Tour de France, is finally here.

This could not have happened 20 years ago. Or even 10.

And back in the 70s, Northern Ireland was considered a no-go area for stars of sport, screen or stage.

There are still many problems to solve and numerous issues to address in our wee country, but it's at times like this that you realise just how far the place has travelled.

And here we are on our bike set to go another few miles.

Stormont has spent millions bringing the Giro to Northern Ireland and even though it is disappointing that big names in the sport such as Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Mark Cavendish and our own world champion Martyn Irvine won't be competing, there are still enough world class riders such as Aussie Cadel Evans in town, who I'm sure will help make it a huge success.

In a nation where red, white and blue and green, white and gold has dominated for decades, we can all think pink at least until the weekend and enjoy what promises to be a stunning spectacle.

I'll be amazed if the crowds don't come out in their thousands to support this massive event because we do that better than just about anyone else.

Think about it... when the Irish Open was in Royal Portrush, record numbers turned out.

Some of those walking the course didn't know a seven iron from a three wood but wanted to be there to experience the experience.

That happens all the time in Northern Ireland.

Last Saturday for instance, there were around 8,000 fans who filed into Windsor Park to watch Ballymena United take on Glenavon in the Irish Cup final, when normally both sets of clubs would do well to amass that type of attendance during an entire league season!

Run of the mill may not be for us, but put on a big show and we'll be there.

And believe me the Giro is a big show.

Maybe I'm getting greedy but on the back of the Irish Open, the World, Police and Fire Games and now the Giro d'Italia on our own doorstep, I've started to think about what other major sporting events we can attract to these shores next. Why not dream big?

The increased capacities and excellent new facilities at Ravenhill, Windsor Park and Casement Park will of course help achieve more ambitious goals.

Perhaps Tourism Minister Arlene Foster and Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin will get together after the Giro and the elections and compile a short-list and then use their influence in government or sporting circles.

Always willing to lend a hand girls, here's a few ideas to get you started:

The Open, the European Super Cup final at Windsor Park and if, as expected, all goes well this weekend why not investigate the prospect of bringing the Tour de France to the people of Northern Ireland?

While we're thinking pink, we may as well think big too.

Enjoy the Giro.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph