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As the tickertape settles in the aftermath of Geraint Thomas’s excellent celebratory parade in Cardiff for winning the Tour de France it has made me wonder about the impact that celebrities and sporting teams have on their home city. One of a plethora of former students of a city High School which also had Wales and Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale and British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton on its school register, Thomas’s homecoming was seen by thousands lining the streets who had come into the city centre from far and wide especially or who had nipped out of work. Moreover the event was streamed live on BBC News and has generated a host of other media coverage both on social media and in the more traditional press.
A few weeks ago it was the unfortunate retirement of Sam Warburton, with glowing tributes pouring in and a clear sense that isn’t always apparent in these situations that he was both a quality player and a quality person off the pitch. I can testify to that as he helped support and promote our Give DIFFerently campaign to help provide a long term solution to helping reduce levels of begging and homelessness. As his announcement was made, references to Cardiff were everywhere and certainly helped to demonstrate that the city was a hotbed of outstanding sporting talent.
Just weeks before that Gareth Bale was putting 2 goals past plucky Liverpool in the Champions League Final. Oh how they celebrated in his own city centre pub Eleven’s and beyond.
Just weeks before that there was yet another homecoming parade for Cardiff City FC who had reached the Premier League and the riches that it brings. As the seasons gets underway we expect increased profile on TV worldwide, more fans in town all wanting a drink, food and in some cases a bed for the night. Our levy paying businesses like that. We also might as well keep the stage installed and the road closures made permanent for such events.
Intertwined with all of this, Cardiff Blues won the European Challenge Cup in thrilling fashion. Unfortunately it was in a half filled stadium in Bilbao, in a country which didn’t even have a team in the tournament when it should have been closer to home (such as our own Principality Stadium) but the impact that this will have on profile for the club and the city with increased attendances hopefully as a result for the new season will again mean that more people will linger longer and spend money with us.
Cardiff Devils were crowned the best ice hockey team in Britain. Not as much exposure than the other sports maybe but no less an achievement. We hosted the Volvo Ocean Race for the first time, smashing audience targets with over 180,000 visitors and helping to show the city’s versatility in hosting a wide range of events. It suddenly appears that Yorkshire’s recent clamour to claim itself as the breeding ground for sporting excellence has just been up surged by just one city.
Sporting achievements really put people and places on the map as people get caught in the emotion of it all and want to know more about the individual or the team. The aforementioned High School, Whitchurch has received huge profile for its unique alumni and the city itself has never been and never will be in a better position, I suspect of utilising such an opportunity because of our sporting prowess. With such a fantastic year for Wales this year’s Sports Personality of the Year will be full to brimming with Welsh sporting greats.