Düsseldorf has moved into pole position to secure hosting rights for the 2017 edition of the Tour de France’s Grand Depart after the German city voted in favour of a bid for the cycling event.
A Düsseldorf city council meeting has decided to press ahead with the bid to return the Tour to Germany, albeit with a narrow 40-39 vote in favour of the proposal. The hosting rights have become available after London in September made a late decision to reject the chance to stage the 2017 Grand Depart, with Germany having since been heavily linked to assuming the contract for the opening rounds of the cycling showpiece.
Tour de France organiser Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) in July said London and Manchester were among three British cities to have placed bids to host the 2017 Grand Depart, with the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, also said to be in contention. However, Transport for London (TfL) said it was withdrawing from contention amid concerns over funding, a decision that seemingly ended any UK bid.
The Mayor of Dusseldorf, Thomas Geisel, in July entered into talks to bring a stage of the Tour de France to the German city. These talks were with an eye towards the 2018 event, but plans have been brought forward a year following London’s decision. If successful, Düsseldorf would become the first German city to commence the Tour since West Berlin in 1987.
Commenting on the bid, German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) chief executive Michael Vesper told the Rheinische Post newspaper: “This is good for the city, but it also benefits all Düsseldorf sport. This is a contribution to the international positioning of German sport.”
The announcement comes with the Tour enjoying a higher profile in Germany following a troubled relationship with the country in recent years. In January, ASO hailed the return of the race to German public-service broadcaster ARD after the signing of a two-year rights deal.
ARD committed to broadcasting the 2015 and 2016 editions of the Tour, with live coverage being offered of each stage. ARD and fellow public-service broadcaster ZDF stopped showing the race live in 2012 after temporarily halting coverage during the 2007 Tour due to doping scandals in the sport.
Germany won six stages in the 2015 Tour through André Greipel, Tony Martin and Simon Geschke. Utrecht in the Netherlands launched the 2015 Tour de France, which will begin at Mont-Saint-Michel on France’s north coast next year.