‘Cycling is in our DNA’: Denmark readies for Tour de France

Eager to welcome the start of the Tour de France which embarks from the Danish capital on Friday, Copenhagen senses an opportunity to promote its deep cycling culture in a land where bikes, not cars, rule the roads.

‘Cycling is in our DNA’: Denmark readies for Tour de France
Preparations for the Tour de France in Copenhagen. Photo: Martin Sylvest/Ritzau Scanpix

“Cycling in Denmark and in Copenhagen is more than just a way of transportation from A to B. In a way it’s a part of our DNA,” Copenhagen mayor Sophie Hæstorp Andersen told AFP.

“Last year we were the host of the European Championship in football. And it was a great big party, everybody was going out. And I think this is going to be even bigger except that now it’s going to be yellow and not only red and white,” she said.

The streets are decked out in the colours of the Tour in Copenhagen where everything is made for bikes — there are more than five times more bikes than cars.

Over 100 million euros have been invested during the past 15 years to facilitate two-wheeled travel, with 12 “motorways” exclusively devoted to cyclists and five dedicated bridges.

“A lot of people in Denmark take responsibility for themselves and for their health, but also for the climate. That’s why we ride bicycles,” Danish cycling federation chief Jens Peter Hansen told AFP.

Around 15 percent of all journeys in this nation of a population of 5.8 million are made by bike.

“It’s a small country with small distances, you don’t have mountains. So I guess that’s why a lot of people could see why the bicycle is really a nice way of getting around,” Hansen said.

“I think it’s the Danish mentality. We like to be independent.”


For the authorities, the socio-economic benefits of cycling are exceptional.

In the capital, they estimate pedal-power saves one million days of work stoppage and makes one billion krone (more than 130 million euros) in savings annually.

According to figures from the promotional organisation the Bicycle Embassy, the morbidity of adults who use their bicycles daily is 30 percent lower than that of non-cyclists.

Yet Danes are cycling less than 20 years ago, a trend authorities hope to reverse with the Tour.

“I think it’s so inspiring to have the world’s greatest cycling race here… when we see the professional cyclists the young kids also want to get up on their bikes,” says Hæstorp.

The Grande Boucle has never gone so far north. A reward also for the Danish passion for a race followed so assiduously each month of July.

“This is going to be a huge party,” says 31-year-old cyclist Christian.

The ‘huge party’ comes as the Danish cycling conscience has just been piqued by the former American ambassador in the country.

“In Denmark, middle-class people can’t afford to drive a car. They have a bike and take the train for long trips,” Carla Sands wrote in a Twitter post in June.

However, in this country considered the most “sustainable” in the world by the Environmental Performance Index, daily cycling has nothing to do with the average salary.

With nearly 6,000 euros monthly, Denmark is among the richest in the world according to the OECD.

“Every time I start thinking about it I start laughing, it’s completely crazy,” says Hansen. “We are actually deeply proud of our cycling culture.”

Denmark hosts the first three stages of the 21-day race, starting with a city-centre individual time-trial in Copenhagen on Friday, with Saturday’s stage crosses the 20km long bridge across the sea at Nyborg.

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Danish broadcaster apologises for ‘unintended racism’ in segment on Moroccan football team

Danish broadcaster TV2 has issued an apology in Danish and English after a segment in which its presenters appeared to compare Moroccan footballers and their families with monkeys.

Danish broadcaster apologises for ‘unintended racism' in segment on Moroccan football team

Denmark’s broadcaster TV2 has apologised for a segment which it said made an “unintentional” comparison between Morocco’s footballers and a family of monkeys, in a clip that has now been reported by international media in the Middle East.

In a segment on the programme News & Co. about Morocco’s footballers celebrating with their mothers after World Cup matches, TV2 presenters appeared to compare them with a photograph of monkeys which was the subject of the following segment.

While one presenter, Søren Lippert, holds a photo of a family of monkeys, co-presenter Christian Høgh Andersen says “this is in extension of Morocco gathering their families in Qatar”.

“We have an animal family gathered here, maybe to stay warm,” he continues as the camera pans onto the photo.

Asked by another voice out of picture why he’s making a connection between the two, Andersen says “because they’re sticking together, and that’s also what they’re doing with the family reunification in Morocco”. He uses the Danish legal term for family reunification, fammiliesammenføring.

Both Lippert and Andersen responded after the clip was spread on social media with an English translation added.

Lippert, who was holding the picture but didn’t make the remarks, said that “however unintentional, the comparison made in the program is not ok”.

In a longer statement posted on Facebook, Andersen said he wanted to give an “unreserved apology” for the comments.

“In a poor attempt at humour I drew a line between sticking together as a family when the next topic about animals was presented in the studio,” he wrote.

“Unintentionally it became a comparison between Morocco’s national football team and the family of monkeys which my co-host Søren Lippert was holding a picture of and which we were using for the next segment,” he wrote.

“I am very sorry and I want to give an unreserved apology for this,” he wrote.

The broadcaster published an apology in Danish and English on its website, saying that the section “can be perceived as a racist comment, and both TV2 and Christian Høgh Andersen would like to give a profound apology for that.”

“We deeply apologize that a host on TV2 News made a comment that is both wrong and offensive. Although it was not the intention of the host, it is a remark that both our host and TV2 dissociate from. This was a clear mistake, we apologize for it, and we will take it into account in our work at TV2 News,” the broadcaster’s editor-in-chief Anne Mette Svane said in the statement.

“TV2 has apologized to the viewers who have contacted TV2, and also believes it is necessary to dissociate from the inappropriate comment publicly,” the statement adds.

The broadcaster has also apologised on social media in response to international media reporting on the clip, including by Qatar-based media al-Jazeera.

The incident was not the only time the broadcaster came under pressure for inappropriate comments during the World Cup.

In November, commentator Thomas Kristensen was criticised for comparing Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku with King Kong during live commentary. Kristensen defended the remark by saying he meant to compare Lukaku with “a monster who everyone is scared of, and nothing else”.