A bid team striving to bring one of the world’s most famous cycling races to Belfast insisted no deal has yet been secured.
The Stormont Executive and Belfast City Council outlined the status of their proposal in response to growing speculation and media reports in continental Europe that Northern Ireland will be selected to host the first stage of the Giro d’Italia next year.
A spokeswoman said discussions with the organisers were “ongoing”.
Authorities in both Belfast and Dublin submitted a joint bid to host the stage of a race which is second only to the Tour de France in terms of prestige. If successful the 2014 Giro would start in Belfast before heading south to Dublin.
If Belfast is chosen as a host city it would see the UK host two Grand Tour events next year, with the Grand Depart of the Tour de France being staged in Yorkshire.
The bid team will undoubtedly be hoping that recent public disorder in Northern Ireland related to a dispute over the flying of the Union flag on Belfast City Hall will not harm its chances.
The cost of holding the stage in Ireland has been estimated at almost £4 million, however it is predicted that the race could generate up to £10 million for the local economy.
Reigning Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins has targeted a Giro win this year. Ireland’s Stephen Roche won the 1987 Giro before going on to win the Tour de France.
A spokeswoman for Stormont Tourism Minister Arlene Foster’s department said: “The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) and Belfast City Council are jointly exploring the possibility of bringing the Giro d’Italia to Northern Ireland. Discussions are ongoing.
“In recent years, we have demonstrated our ability to stage high-profile events such as the Irish Open and the MTV Awards in Northern Ireland. We will continue to work together with stakeholders to attract major events to Northern Ireland as they have the ability to benefit the image, economy, tourism performance and future potential of the region.”
A spokesman for Giro organisers RCS Sport declined to comment on whether a decision on the 2014 race had been made.