Harrogate council points to new UCI cycling event report as demonstration of its positive benefits

Harrogate Borough Council has hailed the town's controversial hosting of the UCI cycling championships as a boost for people's health and the health of the town's visitor economy.

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 3:22 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 3:25 pm
Flashback to 2019 - The Elite Men Road Race peloton passes the Royal Pump Rooms to climb Cornwall Road in Harrogate during in the UCI World Championships.

The comments follow publication today, Wednesday, by British Cycling of a new report showing that, thanks to the UCI Road World Championships held in Harrogate in 2019, people across Yorkshire now have a more positive attitude towards sport and exercise.

The report into the social impact of the annual international cycling event was carried out by The Sport Industry Research Centre (SIRC) at Sheffield Hallam University at the behest of UK Sport and its partners The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Sport England and British Cycling

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The results showed 57 per cent of those who were surveyed felt more proud of Yorkshire/UK and 52 per felt more positive about where they live because of the UCI.

A total of 45 per cent were inspired to take up cycling or cycle more, and 47 per cent were inspired to do more sport and active recreation generally.

In addition, 79 per cent of Yorkshire residents reported a sense of excitement for the event while 72 per cent said the event provided more opportunities to meet people from within and outside the region.

Coun Stanley Lumley, Harrogate Borough Council s cabinet member for culture, tourism and sport, said: "This report shows that the UCI Road World Championships has inspired people to get more involved in sport.

"Living an active lifestyle has such a significant impact on health and wellbeing and can help prevent longer-term health issues."

Harrogate Borough Council commissioned its own impact study last year.

The impact study found 84 per cent of people who came to watch the event were satisfied or very satisfied with it, and it resulted in a £17.8 million-pound boost to the local economy.

Both reports confirm that the global TV audience for the championships exceeded initial estimates, with a cumulative global television audience of 329 million.

But the legacy of the event, which was hit by the wettest September 2019 in decades, has divided Harrogate ever since the world class cyclists left town.

There were long-running complaints from traders that the expected number of cycling fans expected never materialised and that, because of disruptive road closures for the races, the town centre was deserted during almost the entire nine days of the UCI Road World Championships and they lost thousands of pounds in business.

The guardians of the Stray were also furious that the parkland at West Park turned into a grassless muddy bog which took months to repair.

But Harrogate Borough Council remains convinced the UCIs were of benefit to the town.

In today's statement, though Coun Stanley Lumley acknowledges the concerns raised but he also said there was no doubt the event would boost tourism in Harrogate.

Coun Lumley said: "It is inevitable that hosting an international event of this scale can cause disruption on normal day-to-day life.

"But the global television audience has no doubt left a lasting impression on what Yorkshire and specifically the Harrogate district has to offer.

"This will no doubt encourage a number of visits in the future which our tourist economy so desperately needs."

Harrogate Borough Council is also confident it can help improve the health of residents in the district with the new company it has formed for leisure sector facilities in the district - Brimhams Active.

Coun Lumley said: “Brimhams Active, which will be launched later in the summer, shares this vision and we’ll be making a transformational shift from a conventional leisure service to becoming a community health and wellbeing company, focussed on helping people to move more and live well across the district.

Based in Harrogate as the host town, the UCI Road World Championships were held in the UK in September 2019 after a gap of 37 years and were secured after a successful joint bid by British Cycling, UK Sport, Welcome to Yorkshire and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

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