This week’s announcement that Wollongong has won the rights to host the UCI World Road Cycling Championships has been met with widespread excitement.
The numbers speak for themselves:
The NSW Government has forecast that $94m will be spent in the NSW economy as a direct result of the event.
Over 1000 athletes from 50 countries are expected to compete in front of 300,000 spectators and 500 international media.
We need to find 1,500 volunteers, but given the amazing success of the DW/ IRT Cruise Ambassador program, that should be the easy part!
By any measure, this is Wollongong’s Olympic moment.
But how is Wollongong really going to benefit?
Since the announcement, the eyes of the cycling world have turned to Wollongong.
Cyclists from all over the world have begun planning their visits to ride our world championship course.
These riders, both professional and amateur, will eat in our cafes, stay in our hotels, and buy presents for their families in our retail stores, they might even get their hair cut.
They will share their memories on social media, showcasing the beauty of our region for the entire world to see.
When the event is over, amateur cyclists will return to relive their memories of the event and test themselves against our world championship course.
Our world championship course will become a piece of legacy infrastructure which the Wollongong economy will enjoy for many generations to come.
The visitation and economic benefit driven by this event will not be defined by eight days in 2022 - planning, staffing, logistical services and extensive training camps will take place beforehand; while legacy infrastructure, along with events and tourism inspired by 37 hours of international coverage will follow as a result.
We’ve reached a critical point where further hotels, tourism product and complementary infrastructure are desperately needed to advance the region.
No end of world class projects have been proposed over the years, everything from a Gondola at Mt Keira to Disneyland at the Steelworks.
As a city, we need to come together and use this announcement as the catalyst to make some tough decisions and commit to delivering our key projects before 2022.
It would be a missed opportunity if we had half planned a Gondola, half built Grand Pacific Walk and half delivered the Wollongong Harbour Masterplan.
We need our key projects delivered to showcase them to the world and we need to start now.
Wollongong has a proud history of elite cyclists across all genres, with Saya and Kai Sakakibara (BMX), Caleb Ewen (Road Cycling) and Josh Carlson (Mountain Biking) all currently competing on the world stage.
Major events such as this, inspire the next generation to jump on a bike and emulate their heroes.
It doesn’t matter if its BMX, road cycling or mountain biking, the main thing is our kids are out in the fresh air enjoying themselves, away from Xboxes and iPads.
Let’s make sure we also give them the infrastructure they deserve to become the best they can be.
Let’s make sure we also give them the infrastructure they deserve to become the best they can be.Mark Sleigh
Events like this don’t occur without a fantastic team coming together to make magic happen.
This event would not be possible without the support of the NSW State Liberal Government, and in particular Minister for Sport, Stuart Ayres and Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra, Gareth Ward.
Gareth has long been a supporter of bicycle tourism and major events and his ongoing support has been crucial to the success of the Wollongong Major Event program.
Locally, Wollongong City Council could not have been more proactive or supportive.
Our Lord Mayor, his fellow Councillors and council staff have all embraced this opportunity to put Wollongong on the world sporting map.
There is a lot of work to be done to deliver such a large event and this could never be achieved without their commitment and support.
And last but not least, a great mate of mine and partner in crime at DW, Jeremy Wilshire has been working to bring international cycling to Wollongong for seven years.
Take a bow mate, this is bigger than we ever could have expected.
The clock is ticking, 1436 days to go; let’s not waste a minute to make the most of our Olympic opportunity.
- Mark Sleigh,
General Manager of Destination Wollongong