CITY leaders are seeking a firm guarantee the government will make Portsmouth’s ambition to host the opening leg of the Tour de France a reality.
Council leader Donna Jones has revealed it could cost more than £1.5m to put together a bid to event bosses to hold the Grand Depart in 2019.
Cllr Jones wants Whitehall to cover most or all of the funds given the financial constraints the city is under.
But she said it was ‘50-50’ at this stage whether that would happen – and with the help of Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond she intends to convince culture secretary John Whittingdale he must help.
Cllr Jones said: ‘We have a 50-50 chance of securing government money at this stage.
‘I need to do a sales job to John Whittingdale. There is a real opportunity here.
I need to do a sales job to John Whittingdale. There is a real opportunity here.Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council
‘I want Portsmouth to be the number one sporting destination outside of London.’
Cllr Jones hopes she’ll be able to enlist the help of Portsmouth’s twin city Caen, in France, to work up the deal as they’ll look to host the second day of the Tour.
She said: ‘It’s important we work up a joint bid with our twin city of Caen as they could provide some of that money.
‘We are not going to have anywhere near the sort of money needed for the bid.’
Cllr Jones said she may reschedule a meeting planned with Tour director Christian Prudhomme in Paris on December 2 because of ongoing concerns of terrorism in the French capital.
Cllr Jones said: ‘There is a lot going on out there at the moment and more threats have been identified.’
But Cllr Jones said Mr Prudhomme is taking ‘very seriously’ Portsmouth’s interest – and will consider ordering a feasability study into the proposal once taking his advice.
The city has chosen 2019 as the year it wants to host the Tour as it ties in with the 75th anniversary of D-Day. It’s hoped cyclists would ride from the city to the South Downs before heading to the beaches of Normandy where troops – many of whom were from this area – landed.