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‘It’s ours to lose’: Pressure on Ireland not to scuttle its bid to host €500m America’s Cup

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‘It’s ours to lose’: Pressure on Ireland not to scuttle its bid to host €500m America’s Cup

‘It’s ours to lose’: Pressure on Ireland not to scuttle its bid to host €500m America’s Cup
September 14
11:00 2021

Cork business leaders fear fallout from the Zappone affair could affect the Irish bid to host the prestigious yacht race in 2024.

The Government is under pressure from Cork’s business leaders to keep Ireland’s bid for the 2024 America’s Cup yacht race afloat amid fears that the political fallout from the Katherine Zappone affair could derail it.

Cork Chamber, vintners, and hoteliers have urged the Government to commit to spending an estimated €150m to stage the huge global sporting event in and around Cork Harbour ahead of an expected decision from race organisers tomorrow that Ireland is their preferred bidder ahead of Jeddah and Valencia.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has championed the America’s Cup event being held in Ireland, and played a key role in the bid in June, when a technical team from the event’s organising authority visited Cork City and its harbour for a range of briefings and site assessments.

However, with Mr Coveney facing a vote of no confidence in the Dáil this week arising out of the Zappone affair, the race authorities in New Zealand are closely monitoring the political fallout in Ireland.

The State would face a €150m bill to stage the event, but a cost-benefit analysis by consultants EY has shown that it could be worth up to €500m to the economy, could generate 2,000 jobs, attract up to 2.5m visitors, generating between 9m and 11m bed nights, and be watched by an estimated 900m TV viewers globally.

A Government spokesman said that cost-benefit analysis is still under consideration as part of the due diligence process around the bid, but he could not say when a final decision on whether to proceed would be made.

However, the Irish Examiner has learned that the race authorities wrote to the Taoiseach and Mr Coveney last week setting out their plan to nominate a preferred bidder tomorrow.

‘A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’

Cork Chamber president Paula Cogan described the event as a potential game-changer — not just for Cork, but for the southern region.

“It’s ours to lose now,” she said. “If in a few years time we looked back on this and thought we’d lost this opportunity, it would reflect badly on the decision-makers of the time. This is perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Cork, for Ireland, to host such a huge global sporting event.  

It’s a tough decision for any Government to make coming out of a pandemic, to invest in an event in 2024, but it’s a strategic decision that has to be made. It’s a no-brainer.

Michael O’Donovan, Vintners Federation of Ireland spokesman in Cork, said it would be “a travesty” if the event isn’t secured for Ireland.

“The benefits outlined in the cost-benefit analysis greatly outweigh any concerns the State might have about spending the money on this,” he said.

Aaron Mansworth, the managing director of the Trigon Hotel Group, said the global reach of the event presents a massive opportunity for Ireland’s tourism industry.

“It would be a real shot in the arm after the last two years,” he said.

‘Spend money on services for ordinary people’ 

However, Mick Barry, Solidarity TD for Cork North-Central, said if the Government is going to shell out €150m to host a yacht race, then they have zero excuse not to spend money on services for ordinary people.

“For example, a €150m injection of funds for youth mental health services as we emerge from the pandemic might not get millions watching on the telly but would be of huge benefit and save lives,” he said.

“If there is going to be a huge increase in the number of tourists, steps need to be taken to ensure that Cork isn’t turned into the Airbnb capital of the world and that renters are not evicted from their homes so that landlords can operate get rich quick schemes charging mega-rents to wealthy tourists.”

The cost-benefit analysis report estimates that it will cost the State €150m to stage the event — €50m on event costs, much of which could be recouped through sponsorship and ticket sales, and €100m on infrastructure costs, including the electrification of the Cork to Cobh rail line and improvements along the city’s Kennedy Quay which would host a fan and racing village.

Talks are also underway about the construction of a hydrogen plant on a site in Crosshaven to produce the fuel for use by the racing fleet’s support boats.

Tomorrow’s decision will trigger a six- to eight-week period during which the race authorities and the preferred bidder will engage on a range of negotiations.

Should these fail, the other bidders will be invited back into the process.

Source: Irish Examiner

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