Just hours before starting off on one of the world’s biggest cycling events, participants in the Giro d’Italia will be taking centre stage at Belfast City Hall on Thursday 8 May.
The Giro’s ‘Big Start’, or ‘Grande Partenza’ – three days of unmissable cycling action from 9 to 11 May – will be preceded by the traditional presentation of the teams to the host city.
One of the cycling world’s iconic events, second only to the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia commands a huge worldwide audience and Belfast is holding an exciting programme of events and activities to mark the visit by 198 of the top professional cyclists from across the globe.
The nine riders from each of the 22 competing teams will be presented to the public in the grounds of Belfast City Hall, on the evening of Thursday 8 May. While details of the cyclists competing in the 2014 Giro d’Italia will be released closer to the race date, fans can expect to see some of the biggest names in the sport, with teams from at least 12 countries, including Australia, Belgium, Colombia, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Italy, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Russia, Spain and the USA.
The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, said: “It is a great privilege for Belfast to be the host for this spectacular event, and it is fitting that we give the people of our great city the opportunity to extend the warmest possible welcome to the international cast of top class riders.”
The official Giro opening will be followed by a packed programme of entertainment, featuring a performance by one of the ‘Irish Tenors’, Finbar Wright and stunt riders from the Ramprage Extreme Sports Crew. Gates will open at 5.30pm and free tickets will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. Tickets, limited to two per person, will be available online via www.visit-belfast.com or from the Visit Belfast Welcome Centre in Donegall Square North from 9am on Thursday 24 April.
Susie McCullough, Director of Business Support and Events, Northern Ireland Tourist Board, said:
“This will be a unique opportunity for the people of Northern Ireland to come to the heart of Belfast and see the world’s best cyclists before the three days of competition gets under way. For the thousands of people who come to witness the team presentation it will be a magical and unforgettable experience. There is sure to be excitement and drama on May 9, 10 and 11 as the riders make their way through Belfast, the magnificent Causeway Coastal Route and the historic city of Armagh, and we hope that many people will line the route to enjoy the fast-paced action and cheer the cyclists on.”
The ‘Giro Opening – Come Meet The Riders’ event will be the highlight of Belfast City Council’s ‘Get on yer Bike!’ Giro festival, supported by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. The festival runs from 3 -11 May, when venues around the city – including the Ulster Hall, Ulster Museum, QFT and Crumlin Road Gaol – will embrace the themes of Italian, pink and bicycles through talks, films, gastro offers, theatre and much more. From 8 – 11 May, the Festival Hub, at Cathedral Gardens and Writers’ Square will be home to everything from free arts and crafts workshops to cookery demos, bicycle maintenance, fashion and street theatre, as well as expo stands. For more information visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk/giro2014
Darach McQuaid of RCS/Shadetree, organisers of the ‘Big Start’, concluded:
“The whole build up to the Giro coming to Northern Ireland has been really positive and the action really starts with the event in City Hall on Thursday 8 May. The public will see each team presented on stage and the riders will be individually introduced and the team leader will be interviewed. T his is a fantastic opportunity to get to know all of these athletes from all over the world and hear from them in the unique setting at Belfast City Hall.
“Belfast City Council has really done a wonderful job on the entertainment and I have no doubt the atmosphere will be fantastic. So make sure not to miss this first official Giro event!”