City set to be centre of world MTN attention

2012-03-10 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL is buzzing and the capital city’s on show as it welcomes a massive influx of local and overseas tourists, enjoying an economic boost while parading its diversity.

This is boom time for the city as it hosts the 2012 UCI (International Cycling Federation) MTB World Cup at Cascades Mountain Bike Park from March 14-18, welcoming 650 riders, 1 000 support crews and in excess of 17 000 spectators.

Pietermaritzburg Tourism is basking in the opportunity for the city to show its strength, reaffirming its status as the City of Choice, city of events. The association’s Sdu Ndlovu, said: “This is a major boost for the city’s economy, particularly for the hospitality and transport sectors. We expect more than 30 nations to be represented at the event, constituting more than 1 000 participants. The world’s sports media will be focused on Pietermaritzburg and we welcome from 70 to 100 journalists from around the globe, backed up by a healthy representation of television crews.”

The influx of international visitors allows Pietermaritzburg to introduce its attractions, activities, history and rural/township tourism. Away from the track, there are tours to the city centre, highlighting its historical aspect and buildings.

“Our magnificent city hall is a talking point on its own, plus there is the Gandhi statue, train station and the Edendale Heritage Route, which includes the Manaye Hall where Nelson Mandela made his last speech as a free man. This route also includes the Peace Monument, DCO Matiwane Museum, Qanda Rock and the Zulu cultural experience,” said Ndlovu.

Organiser of the world champs, Alec Lenferna, said Pietermaritzburg stood tall as a major sporting capital in South Africa and the world, clearly showing it can host major events, while offering a relaxed, tourist-friendly environment.

“We have been staging world-class events since 2007 which, to date, has resulted in about 2 500 hours of worldwide television coverage in more than 100 territories, not forgetting countless website reports and coverage in newspapers and magazines …” he said.

Lenferna added that a decision had been taken in 2007 to work with the city fathers and governmental agencies, in conjunction with the UCI, to create an internationally recognised cycling hub in Africa.

“Pietermaritzburg was selected due to its geographical position and good links to Durban and Johannesburg. Terrain in and around the city was also considered and Pietermaritzburg is in the unique position of being big enough to stage events like this while being small enough to need them. Events like this are difficult to stage in major cities such as Cape Town and Johannesburg, these centres feeling they have other attractions for visitors,” he said.

To date, Pietermaritzburg has hosted seven international cycling events since 2008, which includes the 2010 UCI BMX World Champs. Future events have already been awarded to Pietermaritzburg for this year and 2013, with work on bids for events in 2014/15 already in the pipeline.

“Given such opportunities, Pietermaritzburg has performed with distinction every time … Even the courses have been designed by world-class people, this year being no exception with Nick Floros and Nigel Hicks blowing us away with their work. Top-class riders have already given their approval and we need to remember, there are only 10 MTB World Cup events annually on the planet and Pietermaritzburg is privileged to have the best riders coming to the city,” said Lenferna.

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More action to look forward to in forthcoming UCI cycling events for Pietermaritzburg:

• 2012 All Africa Challenge at Cascades & Alexander Park on April 25 to 30. (250 riders, 200 support crews and 1 000 spectators expected)

• 2012 UWCT Final (old UCI Masters Road World Championships). The start and finish at Alexander Park from August 23 to 26. (2 000 riders, 1 000 support crews, 4 000 spectators expected)

2013 UCI Masters MTB World Championships at Cascades MTB Park from August 15 to 18, 2013 (850 riders, 750 support crews and 5 000 spectators expected.)

2013 UCI MTB & Trials World Championships at Cascades MTB Park August 21 to September 1, 2013 (1 000 riders, 1 500 support crews and 25 000 to 30 000 spectators expected.)

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