Edited by Richard Pomfret and John K. Wilson
Chapter 4: An economic history of the Tour de France, 1903–2015
Since its creation in 1903, the Tour de France has remained the biggest of all professional cycling events. This chapter aims to present three aspects of the economic history of the Tour de France and what they tell us about the economic history of sport. First, the Tour has always been owned by private newspaper and media companies. This is why I analyze the level and composition of these companies’ turnover, their business strategies and the reasons for their overall success. Second, Tour riders have always been professionals. This is why I analyze riders’ incomes and prize money and their distribution, which shows clear “winner-takes-all” aspects. Third, the demand for sport shows by Tour spectators reveals broad trends in Europe’s economic history since the early 20th century: the diffusion of bicycles, newspapers and mass consumption, the increase in leisure time, and the advent of the mass media.
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