Plans for a top sporting event that could boost the economy by millions and attract global athletic stars to the north-east have been unveiled.
Tourism bosses hope the Great Aberdeen Run will fire the starting gun for the Great City Games, which have in the past attracted superstars such as Usain Bolt to Manchester and Newcastle.
It is estimated the run could bring in up to 7,000 participants in the first year, with the potential for that number to grow and deliver up to 70,000 visitors as it develops – potentially generating millions of pounds for the local economy.
But the even bigger coup for the city would be landing the Great City Games – a world-class athletics tournament that has attracted the likes of Bolt and more recently, Olympic stars Andy Butchart and Tiffany Porter.
Aberdeen City Council, working in partnership with tourism and trade bodies across the city and Aberdeenshire, hopes to bring the UK-wide Great Run scheme to Aberdeen as early as next August.
Plans for the half marathon and 10K are still in early stages, but the route has been earmarked to include all of Aberdeen’s major landmarks, including the university, the Beach Ballroom, Pittodrie and Marischal College.
The run would be staged by the Great Run Company, which launched the popular Great North Run in Newcastle in 1981 and now holds events across Britain. The Great Scottish Run in Glasgow generates £4.3million to the wider economy, but tourism chiefs estimate Aberdeen’s event would be more likely to make about £2.4million – roughly the same as the Great South Run in Portsmouth.
And as part of an agreement to proceed with the plans, the Great Run Company said it would be willing to bring the Great City Games to the north-east within three years of the first Great Aberdeen Run.
Aberdeen’s Myles Edwards, a champion 1500m runner, last night hailed the proposals as a “fantastic” idea.
He said: “Aberdeen is a city that really should have an event like this, and I can guarantee that as soon as places go up for sale for this event they will be snapped up in seconds because there’s so much enthusiasm about running in Aberdeen at the moment.
“Lots of people from all abilities are getting into it, so I think this is a really positive thing for the city and exciting events are amazing for getting people active and into the sport.”
Willie Young, convener of Aberdeen City Council’s finance committee, said the estimated £150,000 cost to stage the event would be a major investment in the city’s future.
Mr Young said: “Regeneration is not just about buildings, it’s not just about cleaning up Union Street, it’s also about bringing major cultural events to the city to put Aberdeen on the world stage like it deserves.
“If Aberdeen really wants to aspire as a city, then we need to not just sell Aberdeen because of the oil, we need to sell the city via events such as this and give people a real reason to come and see what makes Aberdeen the great city it is.”
Andrew Martin, director of the Scottish Centre for Tourism at the Robert Gordon University and vice-chairman of the Aberdeen and Shire Hoteliers Association, also backed the idea.
He said: “Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire do have some great running events, with the Balmoral and Baker Hughes ones, but something of this magnitude would be a major force for economic regeneration in the north-east.
“I love the north-east, but due to our geographic location you have to really make an effort to come here – you don’t get any passing trade, so you really have to give people genuine reasons to come and visit the region, and this would be a genuine reason.
“Newcastle used to be a very tough sell to bring in tourism, but the Great North Run really put the city on the map, and it’s now a sell-out event.
“And realistically, Aberdeen today is a much easier sell than cities like Newcastle were in the 80s, so I really think this is a fantastic proposal.
“The power of runs like these to boost local economies should not be understated.”