Auckland’s obituary should not need to be written. I’m not writing it. But the fall from the epicentre of the world to one-horse town run by tin-pot dictators and political agitators at the bottom of the globe has been faster than a stock market flash crash. It’s desperately sad to see. I actually don’t want to see it, I’m in denial, but the party’s over barring a last minute miracle that isn’t coming. Viewing the photos, sent into me (un-credited – apologies) by a German reader of this blog, of American Magic’s base being de-constructed and Patriot shrink-wrapped, ready for shipping, reminds me of Detroit after the car industry left.
It’s a scene you would imagine if the Kiwis had been abjectly beaten, stuffed on their own waters magnificently, the Cup ripped from their grasp and off to new beginnings in the Solent or Newport or Cagliari…perhaps even Lake Geneva after a Deed of Gift fist-fight. But no, this is the winner’s backyard. This is happening right now. The Cup is not going to be in Auckland in the next cycle. That ship has sailed.
Now that’s not to say that the Cup itself won’t remain upstairs at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, glaring down like the Greek goddess of Rhamnousia with the trance inducing power of Morpheus to all-comers who dare to dream. Oh no, that ugly ewer could be locked up in the gentrified shed on Westhaven Drive for many cycles to come, bet against that at your peril, but will the Hauraki Gulf ever provide the aqua platform for the skimmers again?
I’ve written about it before but one of the saddest sights in our sport is the America’s Cup in the immediate aftermath. The once fortress-like bases have long-since excused the man-mountain guards and the apron is like a public walkway. Containers are loaded, cherry-pickers are beeeping loudly extracting the bones of temporary structures. Last night’s barbecue of thanks smoulders amidst full-to-the-brim makeshift bins gratefully housing the excess and remnants of platitude and gratitude. The centrepiece boats, even the winners, are now throw-away items of yesterday’s thinking, unlikely to ever be sailed again in anger. The rock-stars have long since departed, thoroughly sick of the whole damn thing and off to spend valuable time in reality with the family or on to the next mug’s game in a glamour destination. Team kit is available on the bargain rail.
The rose tinted spectacles of the America’s Cup fade to clear and it’s an ugly, windy, barren place to witness. Speculation and regret fill the void. Vital workers, real people, earning a day wage in a hard hat and luminous vest replace the supposed glamour of the highly-paid backed by the largesse of patriarchs committing a rounding error of their fortune to winning a place in history. But it goes again and the same mirage of hope is spun. The America’s Cup is a powerful Siren of historical world sport.
But if pictures tell a thousand words, the Cup is off to pastures unknown. I checked with the team yesterday and they were saying little. What else could they say? After the Magic boats leave, only Te Rehutai will remain as a lasting memory of a fabulous Cup run in New Zealand. It too, won’t be there long. Memories have been made but it’s over for now. The bases will be dismantled, local government will erect the next generation of millennial housing and faux-industry and slowly the remnants of the Cup will be dismantled. Sad but true.
It could have been different. Bold political vision and purpose against a hellish pandemic backdrop of the unknown would have been required. In hindsight it’s easy to criticise and even easier from afar but a truly global event that put New Zealand so firmly on the map has slipped through their hands like an England cricketer at silly mid-on. The Cup could have been secured for generations to come but the government played reason in awful circumstances never believing that the bluff of abyss would be called. It has. And no amount of posturing from home-grown bellyachers will stop it. Call for an audit if you like. The circus left town a long time ago and the last elephants are hitching a ride via Suez to new uncertain but certain pastures. The Antonov’s won’t be flying into the cargo port at Auckland International anytime soon.
I expected a backlash but it’s one shorn of teeth. It’s a sucking up of the inevitable by a fabulous nation that absolutely deserves better. It’s a situation of the shambolic. Walk a mile in a Kiwi’s shoes at this loss and ‘disappointment’ wouldn’t quite curry as a descriptor. I’d be furious. I’d be campaigning. I’d find it hard to rally around the flag let alone the cause. I’d be wrong and reactionary. (I usually am). But that’s what’s being asked, at its basest of levels, of the Kiwi supporters now as the America’s Cup game has gone stratospheric and there’s no way that Team New Zealand will dare to put their fabulous name to anything but ultimate sporting success. I agree with that. I truly, madly do. But it comes at a cost that is high.
And what does this look like if, as expected, the Kiwis storm the 2024 Cup and retain? No matter what the success of a venue in the Middle East or Europe served, no matter the riches that delivered it, the demand has to be to bring it back to Auckland.
If I were a Kiwi supporter I’d be leasing my support on an expectation that the same trick won’t be pulled twice. The politicians will have changed by 2028, they may even be long gone by 2024. The politics will certainly be different. Life will be different. The Cup must come back. That’s the only hope or else what does it say about the nation?
No obituary needed. New Zealand will be back. And it will be glorious.