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The striking architecture of the Italian embassy in Washington, DC provided a grand setting on Thursday evening for one of cycling's most ambitious initiatives: bringing a Grand Tour to United States of America soil. The members of the Giro DC 2012 Working Group, the Washington Convention and Sports Authority (WCSA), the DC Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, Guilio Terzi, the Italian ambassador to the United States and Giro organiser Angelo Zomegnan came together with the purpose of educating city leaders and potential sponsors about the race and its grand objectives.
Under the banner ‘History is made but once’, a pre-recorded presentation video emphatically stated that the Giro d'Italia would start in Washington in 2012, but the chair of the working group responsible for the bid, Mark Sommers, and Giro director Angelo Zomegnan were more cautious in their pronouncements. Zomegnan expressed optimism about bringing his country's biggest race to the US capital, promising to prepare "something special" and to bring "great days to a great town". Speaking with Cyclingnews, he said that the city is one of three bidding for the 2012 departure, but Washington is "the front runner".
The only obstacle in his mind is the issue of jetlag and its effect on the riders. "The athletes are our greatest asset, and we must consider carefully how this will affect them," he said.
The final confirmation for the host city of the 2012 Giro d'Italia start is still several months off, but Zomegnan said he was confident that the city and working group will be able to assemble the necessary resources to host the event. A corporate sponsor has not yet been named, but the desire to bring the race to DC is clearly there on both sides.
Mayor Fenty, an avid cyclist, vowed to do everything in his power to ensure that the bid can go forward, praising the work of the working group. "We're in the final processes, we have our fingers crossed - it looks good, but we're taking nothing for granted," said Fenty.
For the cycling enthusiasts, the benefits of bringing a Grand Tour to the USA for the first time in history are obvious, but the words of Ambassador Terzi and Sommers placed the importance of the race in a broader perspective: one of highlighting Italian culture and friendship and promoting health and green initiatives through the promotion of bicycling.
Terzi called the idea of hosting the Giro d'Italia in the United States an opportunity to not only provide entertainment and competition, but to share Italian culture with America.
"It would be wonderful to see Washington sporting new pink jerseys. The organisation is ready and in the coming months will set in motion the plans for the Giro,” said Terzi. “I deeply welcome the encouragement and the very sincere commitment of Mayor Fenty to this cause."
Sommers drove the point even deeper, saying that not only would the Giro in DC help to "solidify DC as one of the world's leading sports destinations", it could also be used to drive social change - for healthier, more active children and to help reduce the carbon footprint of the city by encouraging bicycle use.
Of course the most immediate desire for the city of Washington, DC, is to drive tourism, something that was at the top of WCSA president Gregory O'Dell's agenda. Events of the magnitude of the Giro d'Italia would be huge for the area's hotels, restaurants and tourist destinations, and he said that his agency is doing everything it can to make sure the working group can put together a sponsor package that shows they're ready to pull this event off.
"That's been their challenge right now, and from our perspective, we'll give them whatever support they need to let them know the city's behind them to get this done," he said.