SBS Tour de France commentator Mike Tomalaris believes Wollongong does not yet realise just how big a major cycling event is coming to the city in a few years.
Speaking at an Illawarra Innovative Industry Network (i3net) Industry Showcase dinner Mr Tomalaris, a St George resident, said the professional sport of cycling is already big business and on a rapid growth trajectory.
And that is why the global coverage of such a big international cycling event will have such a major impact on tourism and the local economy.
“Believe me a global audience will be watching,” Mr Tomalaris said.
“It will be just as big as the World Cup. And when they lay out the course I have a feeling the men’s road race on the Sunday (the blue ribbon event) will probably start at the Sydney Opera House, work its way through the Royal National Park, follow the coastline down to Wollongong .”
Mr Tomalaris said that all means the Illawarra escarpment, the city and the magnificent coastline will feature prominently in international coverage.
“This is a big coup for Wollongong. When you see the shots on television from this global annual cycling event it is magnificent coverage for the host city. You will see aerial shots, you will see the coastline, you will see the hinterland.
“You will see thousands of people lining the course having a good time as they cheer on the best cyclists in the world. It’s events like this that make tourism a big deal as well”.
Mr Tomalaris, a former sports editor of the Leader, said he was delighted to hear the news Wollongong had been earmarked for one of the big global cycling events in 2022.
“When news broke that the UCI World Road Cycling Championships were coming to Australia I was very excited. I was even more excited when I heard that Wollongong had won the bid to bring cycling’s Road World Championships to this part of the world. I believe it will be held in around September.
“Cycling is so huge it is the number one sport in countries like Holland and Belgium. And in countries like Denmark and the Netherlands riding a pushbike comes first and walking comes second. In Australia a lot more people are hopping in lycra and jumping on two wheels. It is riding a big wave. Which is why more than 12,000 people arrived in Wollongong for the MS Sydney to the Gong”.
After Destination Wollongong, Destination NSW, NSW Government and Wollongong City Council helped secure the major international event for the city Mr Tomalaris said his experience with such events made him realise what a massive achievement it is for Wollongong, the Illawarra and NSW.
Mr Tomalaris has covered the Tour de France 23 times and many people have told him over the years they watch the event for the helicopter shots and scenery. And use that as part of their planning for their next European holiday.
The coverage takes in the coastal locations and idyllic mountain or vineyard setting in the French countryside.
The same thing happens in South Australia during international coverage for the six day Tour Down Under.
“It does huge things for that economy every January,” he said. “It is the cycling centre of the universe in January”.
Mr Tomalaris said the Tour de France was also one of the three events that attracted multi-million advertising revenue for the SBS network.
The biggest annual sporting event in the world ranks only second behind the World Cup but it is only held once every four years.
“I can tell you advertisers and sponsors clamour over each other and we always lock away our advertising dollars by April and the Tour is held in July.
And for the record the third highest money earner for SBS is the Eurovision Song Contest.