Yorkshire tourism chief Sir Gary Verity has been given a top honour by the French government.
The Ordre National du Mérite - National Order of Merit - is second only to the Légion d'Honneur, and is awarded by the President of the French Republic in recognition of distinguished military or civilian achievements.
Sylvie Bermann, French Ambassador to the UK, tonight presented Sir Gary with the Chevalier medal at the Eve of Tour celebration at the National Railway Museum in York to mark the start of this year's Tour de Yorkshire.
Sir Gary said: “I’m honoured to have received the Ordre National du Merite and would like to sincerely thank the French Government for this recognition.
“France holds a special place in my heart and Yorkshire’s connection with the country has strengthened over the last four years since we hosted the Grand Depart.
“When I accepted my knighthood I said I would be doing so on behalf of the People of Yorkshire and I accept this honour in the same spirit, as it marks the start of an exciting weekend for the county."
The honour recognises Sir Gary’s connections with France, his commitment to bringing the Grand Depart to Yorkshire in 2014 and the legacy he has created since with the annual Tour de Yorkshire.
The chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire and director of the Tour de Yorkshire was awarded a knighthood in the Queen’s birthday honours in 2015, the year after he showcased Yorkshire’s stunning scenery to the world in the Tour de France.
In the wake of tthat races, he was determined to create a legacy and as devised the annual Tour de Yorkshire event.
The medal he received is a six-armed Maltese asterick in silver, enamelled blue and with laurel leaves between the arms. The central disc features the head of Marianna – a national symbol of the French Republic and on the reverse is a pair of crossed tricolores surrounded by the name of the order and its foundation date.
Sylvie Bermann said: “I was very pleased to award Sir Gary Verity the insignia of Chevalier in the Ordre national du Mérite on behalf of the French President.
“Sir Gary was instrumental in organizing the Grand Départ for the Tour de France in Leeds in 2014 and Sir Gary’s commitment helped boost Franco-British relations.
“By making this sporting occasion an international event, which involved France and the UK working closely together, he helped boost economic and political cooperation between our two countries.
“The Grand Départ in Leeds was a huge success, with four million spectators travelling around Yorkshire to see it.”