VisitScotland director of events Paul Bush OBE (pictured) reveals the extensive work that has gone on behind the scenes to bring the world-first cycling event to Scotland.

Billed as the biggest cycling event in history, the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships is certainly a first for the sport, with the world’s best cyclists competing across 13 disciplines at a single event for the first time.

“This has never been done before, we are writing the manual,” says VisitScotland director of events Paul Bush OBE, who is overseeing the project.

A huge boon for Scotland, the World Championships is due to involve sites across Scotland between 3-13 August. Of the 13 Championships, eight will be staged in Glasgow venues: Glasgow Green (BMX Freestyle Park, BMX Freestyle Flatland and trials), Glasgow BMX Centre (BMX Racing), Emirates Arena (indoor cycling), Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome (track and para-cycling track) and George Square (road race finishes).

The other events are the Gran Fondo in Perth & Kinross, Mountain Bike Cross Country at Glentress Forest in the Tweed Valley, Mountain Bike Downhill at Nevis Range in Fort William, Mountain Bike Marathon at Glentress, Para-cycling Road in Dumfries & Galloway, while the main Road race will take place in locations including Edinburgh, Loch Lomond, Glasgow and Stirling.

When it comes to getting the show on, and off, the road, there is a core team of around 90 event professionals based in Glasgow, while several experienced cycling event production companies have been engaged including Golazo, Pennine Events, Glasgow Life, SweetSpot Group, Rare Management and Discovery Sports Events.

“We’ve used event delivery partners to work on each of the World Championships rather than build a big organising committee to oversee it all,” says Bush. “The benefit of that is we have contracted world-class partners who have people that are the best in their field.”

Supplementing the workforce of the event delivery partners will be around 400 volunteers working in a raft or roles in venues and positioned throughout the race routes.

“This has never been done before, we are writing the manual.”

Bush says that workforce issues have been among biggest challenges the event has faced since the outset, largely due to the pandemic and Brexit: “Getting the right people at the right time, and working virtually for the first two years, has been a huge challenge. By definition, when you deliver something as complex as this you need to be face-to-face. Undoubtedly, supply chain inflation costs have put huge pressures on budgets. The budget has gone up by about 15%.”

The UCI Cycling World Championships is a huge project with a budget of £60 million paid for by Scottish government, Glasgow City Council, UK Sport, British Cycling and local authorities. For Bush, it’s been a key focus for the past five years.

“UCI president David Lappartient had this vision of bringing together all the cycling world championships, to create the Olympics of cycling,” explains Bush. “I spoke to him at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, and the following week at SportAccord. I liked his vision and thought it would be great for Scotland in terms of showcasing our natural assets, but also the country at large. In relative terms, there was no massive infrastructure spend as we already had the mountain bike course at Fort William, we had plans underway to develop Glentress, and our road network is very good. We didn’t have to bid, which also significantly reduced costs. We announced it in the spring of 2019.”

When it comes to showcasing Scotland, not only are 1 million people expected to attend but the TV audience will be huge as a result of the event being live broadcast in 160 markets.

The Championships is expected to result in net economic impact of £67 million to the Scottish economy, but Bush says the positive impact of the event goes much further than the financial benefit, not least when it comes to encouraging behavioural change and cycling as a sustainable mode of transport.

Says Bush, “It’s the first time that a sports event like this has managed to activate into communities and into society so deeply.”

This feature was published in the Summer edition of Access All Areas, which is available to read for free HERE