Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Last-minute delay in the negotiations for the America's Cup in Valencia

"It’s not over until the fat lady sings", say the Americans. As far as the 33rd America's Cup in Valencia was concerned, the fat lady was supposed to sing yesterday afternoon in Madrid, right after Ernesto Bertarelli, head of Alinghi, met with José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Spain's prime minister. Although the official announcement was scheduled to be made next Wednesday at noon, everybody expected some kind of informal announcement from either Zapatero or Bertarelli. It seems that the fat lady's vocal cords suddenly closed yesterday and she will not be singing for another month.

Although the meeting was defined by both parties as warm and constructive the surprise was to come afterwards, when the minister of Public Administration, Elena Salgado, stated that despite the government's full support of the America's Cup in Valencia, no formal agreement could be signed before the end of August.

According to Salgado, the main issue to be resolved is the structure of the public entity that was formed in order to negotiate the event with America's Cup Management (ACM), the company that runs the America's Cup. Given the high degree of regional decentralization in Spain, three levels of public administration (central, regional and local) were involved in that entity, called Consorcio Valencia 2007. Half of its board members were named by the central government and a quarter each by the regional and local governments.

The problem lies in the fact that each of the three parties desires a greater level of decision-making and power. The 32nd America's Cup was obviously a great success and as a result none of the three governments would like to be left out. Presumably, the central government in Madrid wants the current entity to be dissolved in order to form a new one where its power would reflect its financial involvement.

Obviously, such an issue is time-consuming and cannot be resolved within the next few hours and according to Salgado at least a month will be needed in order to create this new entity and have the cards reshuffled. Once that is achieved, the signature of the contract with ACM would become a simple formality.



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