Wollongong is approaching the closing stretch of our preparations for the 2022 UCI Road World Championships a little like Australian cyclist Simon Clarke's successful approach to the finish of Stage 5 of the Tour de France last week. With years of hard work and few COVID cobblestones behind us, we are positioned well but still need a big push and a bit of luck to get us across the line.
With just over two months remaining until the world comes to Wollongong, the preparations are stepping up another gear. You will see the city's welcome mat starting to be rolled out in a range of ways, from course infrastructure road improvements, to city dressing preparations, the event advertising campaign and a range of programs and opportunities for local business and our community.
The event marketing effort has kicked off in earnest with commercials running in the Tour de France television coverage, ensuring that the 2.4 million Australian cycling enthusiasts - 600,000 of whom live within a two-hour drive of Wollongong - know they are invited. At the same time Destination Wollongong has launched its campaign to showcase the World Championship course along with our spectacular coast and escarpment to the booming cycling tourism market across the country.
A great deal of work is going into the way that the city will look for the expected 300,000 spectators, as well as the 300 million television viewers around the world. In the history of Wollongong, there will never have been more people in our CBD than we are expecting on September 25. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Wollongong to market itself to millions of future tourists and investors, so we want it to be at its best. As John Moore, the Marketing Director at the Sydney 2000 Olympics said back then, "You don't invite the world over and then not get properly dressed for the event".
So we will provide hundreds of shopfront dressing kits with decals and bunting for the city's retailers, and we're inviting them to join "Team Wollongong" and share in the celebration, and all the opportunities that come with such a huge influx of visitors.
For the hours of live broadcast of our region to the world, we are working to make sure that no stone is left unturned in presenting our city at its best. From giant-sized grass signage for the helicopter cameras, to the colourful scrim that will line the course, we want to dress the city up for the occasion.
But the banners and the bunting are only what's on the outside. We know that the key to Wollongong's welcome, and the lasting memories that we hope to create, will be our community. The people of Wollongong are proud of their place, and of the warmth of our people. So we are working hard to help bring that pride and hospitality to life for a whole week in September like never before.
Destination Wollongong has launched their Bike Friendly Business program, which is encouraging venues to make the small adjustments needed for cyclists and their bikes, and offering to promote those venues to the visiting fans.
We will officially launch Wollongong 2022's local business program next week, with information webinars and a live briefing session to help all our businesses take full advantage of the event.
A number of additional high profile ambassadors will be announced, and the community will be invited to join a mass participation event and community celebration in the lead in to the World Championships. The Bike City Community Partnership program has involved dozens of local organisations who are each bringing their own communities to the party. This is a time where Wollongong's diversity is going to shine brightly, as riders from 70 countries around the world are welcomed by their Wollongong cousins.
Our schools, 15 of which are on the race course itself, are being invited to get on board, with AusCycling's Ride Nation cycling education programs and the chance to create experiences for students that will last a lifetime.
And in the next few weeks we will unveil the fantastic volunteer uniform, and recognise and celebrate these members of our community who will be the local ambassadors for our city. There is still time to sign up for anyone who wants to be a special part of Wollongong's welcome - don't miss out on your chance to be amongst the action and to represent our city with pride. Register now at wollongong2022.com.au.
Like for Simon Clarke, as close as it now is, with so much to do the finish line still seems a long way away. And just as the peloton pushed him all the way, so our community will make the difference when it matters. Our journey so far has been tough at times too. And there are still challenges ahead. We know our community, our schools, our businesses are having to dig deep and make special efforts to push through the logistical impacts of such a huge event coming to our town. And we are extremely grateful for that. But we know that all the sacrifices will be worthwhile, when the world is celebrating with us in Crown Street and the whole of Europe is gasping at the beauty of Sea Cliff Bridge and the city's beaches and escarpment, eagerly planning their next cycling holiday Down Under.
It's time to get our heads down and push together to the finishing arch, so that we can all feel a little bit like Simon Clarke on September 18. The UCI World Championship Rainbow Jersey is in our sights!
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