Accoladed Irish cyclist Stephen Roche was yesterday inducted into the Giro d’Italia Hall of Fame at a special ceremony at the Giant’s Causeway.
This is the first time a Hall of Fame event has taken place outside Italy.
On May 9 the this year’s Giro d’Italia starts in Belfast.
It then moves to the Causeway Coast, Armagh and Dublin.
Before the event, Alan Clarke, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, said the Giro d’Italia “is a huge event, probably one of the biggest Northern Ireland has ever staged”.
“This will be streamed around the world to 170 countries.
“If I had the choice today to take the Giro or the Tour de France I would take the Giro because it is about youth, style and fashion and is more on the up, just like Northern Ireland in terms of tourism.
“People here don’t seem to realise how big an event this is on the world stage. For us it is another step on the ladder of showcasing Northern Ireland around the world. We expect 140,000 visitors to Northern Ireland, 40,000 from out of state.”
Speaking at the event, Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister, Arlene Foster, said: “As Northern Ireland embraces the pink of the leader’s jersey, there is no doubt this event will be a significant boost for tourism across the board.”
“Hotels, restaurants, town centres, villages, local communities, and most of all the economy, all stand to benefit.
“In addition to the feast of cycling, there will be an array of family-friendly events and festivals, with lots of music, food and live entertainment for visitors to look forward to.
“Hosting the Giro not only gives us the chance to witness one of the world’s greatest sporting spectacles up close, it will let us showcase our unforgettable scenery, as well as demonstrating that Northern Ireland really is the home of great events.”