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'It's the right thing to do': North coast locals express disappointment at cancellation of North West 200

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Pictured: The North West 200 races in 2017 Picture: Matt Mackey / PressEye

Pictured: The North West 200 races in 2017 Picture: Matt Mackey / PressEye

Philip Magowan / PressEye

Race chief Mervyn Whyte

Race chief Mervyn Whyte

Philip Magowan / PressEye

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Pictured: The North West 200 races in 2017 Picture: Matt Mackey / PressEye

The sense of disappointment at the cancellation of the North West 200 was palpable across the Triangle of Portrush, Portstewart and Coleraine but there is also widespread agreement that this was the right thing to do.

This is the second year the impact of coronavirus has taken its toll on the event which can attract around 120,000 motor bike enthusiasts to the North Coast.

David Boyd, President of Causeway Chamber said: "Whilst it is extremely disappointing for everyone it is the only responsible course of action to take under the present conditions. The NW200 is an incredible weekend on the North Coast with visitors from far and wide staying across the Causeway Coast & Glens Borough.

"The cancellation of the NW200 will not only mean a financial loss for the organisers but will have a domino effect hitting the north coast and overall Northern Ireland tourist economy. Official figures show the North West 200 annually generates £12m in revenue across the already hard hit hospitality and tourism industry.

"We understand that a lot of planning and preparation is required to produce this world class event and we look forward to seeing it return in 2022."

While the loss to the economy will be a huge blow, the emotional costs of missing out on annual reunions with old friends has also brought disappointment.

Sharon Schindler who along with her husband runs Shola Coach House Boutique B&B said: "I was expecting to hear that this year's NW 200 would be cancelled so I am not really surprised but it is so disappointing nonetheless.

"It was the right thing to do because it would have been irresponsible to bring large crowds of people here when it is clear the need for social distancing will be with us for some time to come.

"We have already been in touch with the people booked to stay with us who had all rebooked from last year.

"Most have told me that if they are permitted to travel they will come any way with their bikes and tour our beautiful North Coast.

"I have grown up with the NW 200 because my father Harold was such an enthusiast. He is 97 now and I had hoped to take him to this year's event so it is sad that I won't be able to do that.

"All we can do is look forward to next year and hope it is brighter."

Also disappointed is Maureen Scott, who, along with her late husband Jim, attended her first NW 200 in 1962.

After missing out on last year's event, Maureen was eagerly anticipating hearing the roar of the engines this year.

She said: "The NW 200 is the highlight of my year because it is so close to home and I have been going since 1962.

"My friend from the Isle of Man was coming to stay with me for the week and we were so looking forward to this year after last year had to be cancelled.

"It is so disappointing but I don't suppose there was anything else they could have done and I expect all the other races this year will be the same."

William Gregg, who owns the Harbour Bar in Portrush said there was nothing else the organiser could have done.

He said: "It is a huge blow but it was certainly the right thing to do. I spoke with Mervyn (Whyte, organiser) and I know it was not a decision he made lightly.

"The North West is one of the biggest events - if not the biggest event in our calender each year and for that week there can be up to 120,000 people here from all over the world.

"The risks from coronavirus are too great and it is true, I am heartbroken but we can look forward to 2022 when we can come together again."

Belfast Telegraph


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