‘Wake up to bike event’

2013-08-21 00:00

WAKE up!

This was the message from Clive ­Coetzee, general manager: infrastructure management and economic services at the KZN Provincial Treasury, regarding Pietermaritzburg’s lacklustre response to the 2013 UCI MTB Masters World Championships and the 2013 UCI MTB & Trials World Championships to be held in Pietermartizburg over the next two weeks.

The events, to be held at Pietermaritzburg’s Cascades MTB Park from today to September 1, are significant for the city, said Coetzee.

But, “there is no vibe in the city and no sense of excitement”, he said.

In an e-mail to role-players last week, Coetzee said “63 countries will be in PMB, 350 international media and international TV to over 100 countries”.

“This is big,” he emphasised.

The KZN government, through the KZN Treasury, has supplied financial assistance of almost R13 million for the event and a programme of other cycling events that extends to 2015.

This week Alec Lenferna, the event organiser, echoed Coetzee’s sentiments and said he couldn’t understand why more local businesses didn’t seem to want to benefit from this world-class event.

Lenferna said “the UCI MTB & Trials World Championships is one of the jewels in the UCI crown and a huge honour for the city of Pietermaritzburg to be staging in 2013. It is the pinnacle of the year’s activities in the sport.

“Added to the spectacle in 2013 is the fact that for the first time ever in the history of the sport, the UCI MTB Masters World Championships will be staged in the same country in the same year. This will mean that Pietermaritzburg will see top-class racing in all forms for a two-week period.”

He said Pietermaritzburg’s Cascades MTB Park venue — where previous world-class events such as the opening rounds of the 2009, 2011 and 2012 UCI MTB World Cup were staged — was the only internationally accredited MTB facility on the continent and it is the first time that events of this stature are being staged in Africa.

“The venue is unique on the world stage … in that it sits right in the heart of the city …”

Lenferna said although a number of businesses had become involved, he had expected wider buy-in with restaurants offering specials for cycling fans and shops offering World Championship-related discounts, for instance.

He said he also expected flags and banners in the streets, and other signs of welcoming the visitors.

However, Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB) CEO Melanie Veness said local businesses had bought into the events.

“We have created a platform on our website where local and international businesses can connect, which has been sponsored by local businesses,” she said.

“We have also established an African Business Facilitation Centre at the actual event in partnership with Vodacom, Nashua Maritzburg and Versatile Interiors.”

Veness said the PCB, along with the Department of Arts and Culture, has arranged Zulu dancers and a praise singer for the opening ceremony, with Zulu warriors and women in various traditional attire for the 17 awards ceremonies.

Both World Championships over the next fortnight will see between 1 392 of the best male and female MTB riders from almost 50 nations coming to the city to compete.

Competitors include South African favourites Andrew Neethling and Pietermaritzburg cyclist Greg Minnaar.

Minnaar is the current downhill world champion — a title he won in 2012 in Austria — and will be defending his jersey on his home course.

On Monday, Minnaar opened his second cycling outlet in Pietermaritzburg, near the Cascades MTB Park.

“We felt that there was no central info point in the city for cyclists and visitors and have set ourselves up as a place where people can come for cycling information and advice,” said Minaar.

In addition to competitors, there will also be hundreds of support crew and thousands of accompanying spectators from all over the world, and a global TV audience of millions.

“The TV coverage for the 2009, 2011 and 2012 UCI MTB World Cups in the city were conservatively estimated at over R1,6 billion,” said Lenferna,

“And that doesn’t even consider YouTube and social media coverage, magazines, newspapers, etc.”

Lenferna said they were expecting as many as 25 000 spectators at the event, with between 3 000 and 5 000 of those being international visitors.

The direct benefit of the events to the Pietermaritzburg region was estimated by Lenferna at “at least R25 million”.

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