Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland in the pink for Giro d'Italia

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Media captionGiro d'Italia is helping Belfast show off its softer side as Chris Buckler reports

For three days this weekend Northern Ireland will be in the pink.

It's all down to the Giro d'Italia, the world's second-largest cycle race which last year was broadcast in 165 countries, with an estimated global audience of 775m people.

The three-week long Giro is staged primarily in Italy, but since 1996, the Grande Partenza (big start) has been hosted outside the country, most recently in Denmark.

This year three stages will start in Northern Ireland: A team time trial from Belfast city centre to Stormont on Friday; Belfast to the Causeway Coast and back on Saturday and then a cross-border leg from Armagh to Dublin on Sunday.

The Giro is expected to attract more than 40,000 visitors to Northern Ireland and most of the top 200 cyclists in the world are expected to take part.

Pink is the traditional colour of the event as it is the colour of the jersey worn by the race leader.

Among those getting into the spirit of the event have been a chip shop in Bushmills, County Antrim, which is serving up cod dyed pink.

A herd of sheep on the north Antrim coast have been similarly coloured, while players at Armagh Cricket Club are breaking with a 150-year-old tradition to wear pink kits.

A blacksmith in the county, John O'Callaghan, has made a giant Giro bike from scrap metal and which has been put on display in the centre of the city.

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Cyclists will pass along the Antrim coast on Saturday

Belfast Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir also changed his appearance for the event, dying his locks a fetching shade of pink.

Even two of Northern Ireland's daily newspapers turned pink on Thursday to mark the Giro.

Posters banned

Election posters have been banned from the route - transgressors have been warned they could be fined £2,500.

Image caption Armagh cricketers are breaking with a 150-year-old tradition to wear pink kits

One of the largest traffic management schemes ever seen in Northern Ireland has already begun - it is similar in scale to the plan put in place for the G8 summit in County Fermanagh in 2013.

The scheme will involve the closure of more than 200 miles of roads.

The centre of Belfast will be the most affected area, but closures will also be in place on the Causeway coast and in County Armagh.

Image caption CS Lewis, Belfast-born author of the Narnia Chronicles, wraps up well courtesy of Hollywood Arches library knit and natter group

The roads will not all be shut at the same time.

Extra buses, trains and coach services are being put on to cater for more than 100,000 spectators.

Northern Ireland's Tourist Board has estimated the race will generate international publicity worth at least £10m for NI.

Image caption The first time Belfast shipyard workers have worn pink

It is costing £4.2m to stage in Northern Ireland but organisers claim it will pay dividends.

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Pre-dyed wool to mark the Giro
Image caption Some of Belfast's 'black taxis' have also changed colour to mark the event
Image caption A Bushmills chip shop has put pink cod on the menu

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