Breaking from the pack: Dublin and the Giro D'Italia

Bringing the Giro D'Italia to Dublin shows a city determined to keep a high profile internationally.

By: Dr Ruth McManus (Faculty of Social Sciences)

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Promotion for the Giro D'Italia Big Start on a Dublin bus shelter Creative commons image The Open University / Ruth McManus under Creative-Commons license Waiting for the off: Giro D'Italia advert on a Dublin bus shelter Pink advertisements appearing on bus shelters, a convoy of pink cyclists touring the city handing out promotional merchandise, and the airwaves filling with invitations to 'Be part of the Start' - all are manifestations of the impending arrival in Dublin of the Giro d'Italia. While promotional activities focus on the feel-good factor, this belies the potentially significant economic impacts of hosting this major sporting event.

Dublin's role in the Giro d'Italia can be seen as a manifestation of the city's position in an increasingly globalised world. Indeed, Mediolanum International Funds and International Life, the major corporate sponsor of the event, is one of the more than 500 international companies located in Dublin's International Financial Services Centre (IFSC), employing almost 33,000 people and accounting for 7.4% of Irish GDP.

In order to retain their global status, cities like Dublin must constantly prove their attractiveness as they compete to 'settle' flows of finance and people, often on the basis of intangible assets. By featuring in the Giro's Irish leg, Dublin (along with Belfast) has an opportunity to enhance its image and attractiveness as a place to live, work and invest. Appearing on the world stage, however briefly, is seen as a powerful tool in the drive to attract global flows of capital, which is why cities compete so heavily for the right to host events from the MTV Music Awards to the Olympic Games.

For Dublin City Council, the Giro d'Italia offers scope to restate Dublin's position as a world-class city capable of hosting a world-class event. Its website coverage stresses the opportunity to 'showcase' the vibrancy of the city and the 'world-famous spirit' of its population.

Apart from its place marketing value, this high-profile event is expected to bring both short- and longer-term economic benefits. The former is linked to visitor spending during the event itself, while global media coverage, with TV images being broadcast to an estimated audience of 775 million people in 165 countries, should lead to future tourist visits. Modest estimates put the overall value of the Giro to both parts of Ireland at between €45 million and €50 million.

Within Ireland, Dublin is the engine of the economy and its most important tourist region. However, it must constantly work to maintain its position in the global tourism marketplace. Since 2007, when 4.5 million overseas visitors brought €1.45 billion into Dublin, the city has experienced a decline in tourist numbers and revenue.

A recent tourism taskforce argued that Dublin was losing business to cities that had 'more competitive appeal' and that Dublin's 'brand' was 'becoming a bit stale'. Hosting an event such as the Giro offers an opportunity to refresh Dublin's tourism brand.

For the Giro d'Italia's organisers, too, there are benefits to locating the 'Grande Partenza' (Big Start) in Ireland. Like cities, major events must also constantly re-invent themselves. For Michele Acquarone, head of the Giro and managing director of Italian race organiser RCS Sport, both Dublin and Belfast 'provide spectacular backdrops… and will add something very special into the history of this great cycling event'. The Giro has also been attracted to Ireland by a range of incentives from tourism organisations, city councils and corporate sponsors.

There is already a strong Irish connection to the Giro. Dubliner Stephen Roche won the famous 'maglia rosa' in 1987. Local interest in this year's event is likely to centre on his son, Nicholas Roche, and nephew, Dan Martin. Dublin's hosting of the Giro d'Italia comes at a time when cycling has been gaining momentum in the city. The Dublin Bikes rental scheme, introduced in 2009, has exceeded all expectations to become the most successful such scheme in Europe.

Recent figures show that commuter cycling in the city increased by 14 per cent in 2013 and has almost doubled in the past ten years, albeit from a low base. Just a few weeks prior to the arrival of the Giro, the city hosted the European Cyclists' Federation's Annual General Meeting, attended by over seventy campaigners representing 50 million utility cyclists across Europe. Many local events will be taking place in association with the race, and it is hoped that the Giro's visit will boost cycling, including acting as a platform to resurrect the Tour of Ireland.

Much has changed, both in professional cycling and in the global economy, since Dublin last hosted a major international cycling event, the 1998 Tour de France. Nevertheless, the opportunities afforded by hosting such an event remain hugely important for the city.

Giro D'Italia logoIn May 2014, the Giro D'Italia holds its early stages in Ireland: The Big Start 2014. This is one of a series of articles from OpenLearn celebrating the event.

See the full list of OpenLearn content for The Big Start 2014