In its 118 year history, the Tour de France has made an overnight stop in Carcassonne 10 times, twice since we’ve lived here and this weekend made the third. The city has been making preparations for the arrival for months and the most recent evidence of this was the installation of umbrellas (photo above) in the official race colors of solid white, yellow, and green, plus white with red polka dots all along the main pedestrian walkway through the middle of town. These provide a nice bit of shade from the summer sun plus lend even more cheer to the festivities. Running perpendicular to that, the principal driving street was not left out since it boasts an endless stream of dangling flowers well above the car roofs. All was in place by the time the first of 168 riders rolled over Friday’s finish line having made the 220 km (137 miles) trip from Nîmes in about 5 hours.
The official website for the Tour de France lists some statistics and rules such as:
- Televised in 190 countries
- 3.5 billion viewers both live and recorded
- 3500 km (2175 miles) route
- 225 km (140 miles) per day, typically
- 4500 people on the Tour (cyclists plus staff)
- 250 places apply annually to be a host city
Those last two items intrigued me since I hadn’t really thought about who pays for all of this, assuming that it was the commercial sponsors who have substantial advertising fees. Host cities, according to one of our local papers, pay 80,000 € as a departure city and 120,000 € as an arrival city. The Tour promoters say that a return of 2 € to 3 € can be expected for each euro invested and a study undertaken by the city of Albi in 2019 when they were a city of arrival, of a day of rest, and of a departure, that figure rose to 9 € for each euro invested. It seems that this sporting event is definitely a boom for hotels, restaurants, and shops.
The race is not only good for commerce but for tourism in general and we can attest to that. While I can’t say that we avidly tune in to see 23 teams of riders peddling away for 5 hours daily over 21 days, we do enjoy the excellent coverage of the countryside that they traverse. For the next few days there will be some spectacular scenery in the Pyrenees Mountains before ending up a week from today in Paris. I’m looking forward to choosing our next vacation destination!
Photo notes: The Carcassonne poster at the top of this post is from the city’s website. The rest we took ourselves yesterday as the racers were on their way to Quillan at the base of the Pyrenees.