It’s hard to praise Auckland high enough for the way they’ve adopted the America’s Cup and it’s no exaggeration to say that it is the perfect venue and the perfect setting for hosting what is looking like being the stand-out global sporting event of 2021.
The America’s Cup can rightly hold its own in the bracket of the Olympic Games, World Cup, Rugby World Cup, NBA, Masters Tournament, Wimbledon, Tour de France and Formula 1. But the host city is absolutely vital, fused with local enthusiasm – and in that respect Auckland stands-out head and shoulders ahead of the other sporting mega-events.
And to put this on at the height of a global pandemic is just exemplary, bold and visionary. I’m on record as saying that Grant Dalton should be knighted immediately after this defence – in fact, I’m going to double-down and say he should be elevated to sainthood and a statue erected downtown in the Wynard Basin. It’s just a fantastic job that he has done and can you imagine the pressure of delivering not only the boat and team of the generation but also the political machinations and manoeuvrings that must have been necessary? Incredible.
So what does it cost to put on an event like this? Well, looking at the Auckland Council records, the total combined spend between government and the council is NZD$249.5m with NZD$113m coming from the council coffers. Big dollars. And what does that buy you? Well $71.7m has gone towards constructing the team bases and the upgrade of the superyacht basins whilst a further $34m is the council’s share of the commercial and base related costs.
That’s big money. Taxpayer’s money. And it’s a highly emotive subject – rightly. (And oh my goodness, I’ve had some emails on this today, arguing the why’s and wherefore’s but I’m not going there). Winning the America’s Cup is one thing – and that’s hard enough – but hosting it with vision and taking a public along with you is one hell of a tough ride.
Looking at the Challengers today, you wonder should any of them be successful and win the Cup, whether they have the vision and the political will back home to stage the event as well as Auckland is doing. It’s almost a ‘be careful what you wish for’ situation as the dream is so darned hard to execute. They don’t call the Cup the poisoned chalice for nothing.
But Auckland now has an infrastructure that is world-beating. The benefits are right there to see. When I was down there in 2000 and then again in 2002-2003, it was undergoing a transformation around the Viaduct Harbour. You could almost feel the developers itching for the Cup to end so they could roll the heavy machinery in, flatten the bases and build like fury.
Well that was the first transformation, now the Wynard Basin is the second and I say this with the caveat of having not visited as I’m stuck in London, it is looking magnificent. Bold, visionary, brilliant. Even the most circumspect Kiwi – and we know there are a few of those (!) – can’t fail to be impressed at what’s happened and the opportunities, particularly in the marine and hospitality sectors, that have been created. As re-generation goes, this is the blueprint of how to do it with a legacy that will last for generations.
Now the mathematicians amongst you will have added up the Council sums above and are itching to tell me that I’m $7.3m short. Well, not so fast brainboxes. That money has been spent on event-related services and it filters directly into creating not only the operational infrastructure but also creates the buzz.
And there’s just too many things to list but the one that caught my eye was what they are calling the ‘Summernova’ and I can’t help but re-name it in my brain as the ‘Champagne Summernova’ and have been humming the Oasis tune all morning. Now that I’ve told you, I have completely ruined your day and admit it, it’s in your brain. Thank me later.
Summernova is the beating Festival heart of the America’s Cup that gives back to the people – not just the race fans – with a whole host of cultural and musical events. Close your eyes and just wish you were there.
So it’s the eve of the Prada Cup. The teams are all measured. The grinders are weighed in. The final prep has been done and the culmination of four years hard graft is wrapped in four carbon goliaths of the most incredible boats ever created and about to be taken to war. Full on war on the water. No holds-barred racing. For the sailors this is the time of their lives. It’s their time to shine. It’s time to put on a spectacle that will astonish the world – win or lose, sailing is the winner and Auckland is the perfect host.
Good luck to everyone competing and thank you Auckland for showing us all how it’s done.
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