Portsmouth link with Caen '˜key to securing Le Tour beyond 2019'
PORTSMOUTH'S strong links with its twin town Caen will be a key plank in a bid for the Tour de France in years beyond 2019, says the city's head of culture.
Leaders had hoped the Solent’s connection to D-Day would see their dreams of staging the Grand Depart in 2019 – the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings – become a reality.
But hopes of staging it that year are hanging by a thread, as the government has failed to reply to a business case put forward by Portsmouth for the £2m it needs to submit a formal application while Tour organiser ASO is to announce next year who its preferred bidder will be.
Portsmouth’s 2019 dreams have also been criticised by British Cycling, which has said it’s now too late to get necessary funding in place.
Tory culture boss Councillor Linda Symes believes Caen can be the difference as leaders focus their efforts on bringing Le Tour to Britain at some stage after 2019.
Speaking to The News, Cllr Symes said: ‘The selling point could be Portsmouth’s partnership with Caen – we have been twinned for almost 30 years. Stephen Baily (the council’s director of culture) has said the relationship is the best it’s ever been.
‘That’s because we have had the America’s Cup, we have been over and visited several times, and we have been talking about doing things for the 30th anniversary of the twinning.’
Cllr Symes said days could be devoted at Southsea Castle to boosting French tourism, and deals for passengers travelling from Portsmouth to Caen with Brittany Ferries are being considered – moves that could bolster the city’s chances of hosting Le Tour’s Grand Depart.
It comes after Cllr Symes revealed a ‘peace garden’ could be created with Caen in flower beds by Southsea Castle – and the French city could join efforts to raise the final cash needed to fund the D-Day Museum’s regeneration project.
Hundreds of letters and emails have been submitted to The News supporting our campaign to bring Le Tour to Portsmouth, launched after event director Christian Prudhomme called on residents to show their passion for the sport.