Next year there's no football World Cup, no Olympics. The Tour de France starting in London on July 7th and riding out through Kent to Canterbury will be the biggest global sporting event of the year.
Commentator Phil Liggett - who flew in from his home in South Africa for the event - said the route chosen for the London stages is the most televisual he's ever seen.
The Grand Départ will come to London and Kent over three days during the weekend 6-8 July 2007 and is expected to attract more than a million visitors to London, providing an economic benefit of £70m in London alone, said mayor Ken Livingstone.
He said the July 7th prologue would be used to commemorate the victims of the 7th July 2005 bombings.
"Having the Grand Depart on 7th of July will broadcast to the world that terrorism does not shake our city," he said.
Cycling is growing in London faster than any other city in Europe, with cycling journeys in the capital rising by 100 per cent in just five years, said a statement from Transport for London, organisers of today's event at the Queen Elizabeth Conference centre, a stone's throw from the Houses of Parliament.
"To build on that success the Mayor of London and Transport for London submitted a successful bid to the Tours organisers, the Amaury Sport Organisation, to bring the Tour de France to the capital," said TfL.
The three days of the Grand Départ include the Tour de France opening ceremony, prologue and stage one. The prologue on Saturday 7th July will be 5 mile lap of central London, starting on Whitehall, taking in some of Londons most famous landmarks including Whitehall, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, and finishing on the Mall.
Stage One, on Sunday 8th July, will start in central London, passing close to a variety of historic and contemporary sites including Big Ben, the London Eye, St Pauls Cathedral, the Gherkin and crossing Tower Bridge close to City Hall. The race will then travel through Bermondsey, Deptford, Greenwich and Erith before travelling in to Kent. In Kent the Tour will pass through Dartford, Medway, Tunbridge Wells and Ashford before the stage finish in Canterbury
In a pre-event statement, Ken Livingstone, said:
The Tour de France coming to London in 2007 is great news for sport in the capital and underlines the city's ability to host prestigious international sporting events. It will help promote cycling, which is on the rise in London, and the capital's streets will provide a superb backdrop to one of the greatest sporting events in the world.
"When the Grand Départ gets here next summer, it will receive the biggest welcome from the fastest growing cycling city in Europe.
Quotes from the official press conference will be loaded here tomorrow.
Manny Lewis, CEO of the London Development Agency, the core funder of the London leg of the Tour de France said:
The LDA is proud to support the Tour in London.
"Hosting the Grand Départ will further reinforce Londons profile as an international tourism destination and Londons ability to host major international events. It will also generate a significant economic benefit to London anticipated to be £56m [yes , Ken says it's likely to be £70m] - from spectators, race officials and media staying in the capital in the build up to and during the event.
James Bidwell, Visit Londons CEO, said:
We welcome the news that London is to host the Grand Départ of the Tour de France in 2007. It will provide us with a great opportunity to encourage visitors from all over the world and showcase key attractions. The Tour de France is expected to attract more than 1 million visitors to London over two days and is further proof of Londons ability to attract world-class events, following last years successful bid to bring the Olympic and Paralympic Games to the city.
BikeBiz has tape-recorded many of the principal figures at today's event so watch out for a podcast bursting with soundbites par excellance...
Want maps and more info? Go here: http://www.tourdefrancelondon.com/.../the_event