2007 Tour de France to start in London

Updated: January 24, 2006, 11:22 AM ET
Associated Press

LONDON -- The 2007 Tour de France will start in London.

Mayor Ken Livingstone said Tuesday that Tour organizers had accepted a $2.68 million bid from the British capital to host the start of cycling's showcase race.

The event will kick off with an opening ceremony on July 6, 2007, followed by the prologue the next day. The first official stage will take place in London on July 8 before the riders are transported to France.

Routes for the prologue and first stage will be unveiled at a news conference Feb. 9. Livingstone estimated up to 3 million people would line the route over the two days.

"Hosting the first stage of the legendary French cycle race will raise the profile of cycling in the capital, attract visitors and promote the capital as a venue for international sporting events," he said.

London bid unsuccessfully to host the opening of this year's Tour, which will start in Strasbourg in eastern France. London's previous bid included a proposed route that Livingstone said would be similar to the one for the start of the 2007 Tour.

The previous proposed route had riders finishing on The Mall after passing Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace and Tower Bridge.

Livingstone said London would use the Tour experience to help prepare for the 2012 Olympics.

It will be the first time the Tour has started in England, and the third time it has passed through the country. The Tour had a stage in Plymouth in 1974. In 1994, the race had stages between Dover and Brighton and to and from Portsmouth.

Starting the Tour outside France is not new. Previously, the Tour's "Grand Depart" has been launched from numerous cities and towns outside France, including Liege, Belgium, (2004), Luxembourg (2002, 1989), Dublin, Ireland, (1998), Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, (1996), and Berlin (1987).

Mick Hickford, head of special projects for London's transport department, said the city had budgeted an additional $7.14 million for security and road closures, but was expecting a return of 10 times its total investment from the Tour.

Other cities in contention to host the start of the Tour included Rotterdam and Utrecht in the Netherlands; Duesseldorf in Germany; Lugano in Switzerland; Florence in Italy; the Wallonia region of Belgium; and the Tyrol region of Austria.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press