Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Ernesto Bertarelli: 33rd America's Cup to take place in Valencia in 2010

The Center for Sports Business Management of IESE Business School (Spain's biggest and most prestigious one) organizes an annual International Forum where important personalities and managers meet to study the new challenges and tendencies of the sport industry.

Its fifth edition took place on Monday and Tuesday in Valencia and its title was "Hosting Major Sport Events: Key to Economic Development of the City". As the title implies it focused on different strategies taken by cities from the five continents in the last years, based on the organization of major international sport events.

Public representatives of cities, the owners of the main sport events, the sponsors of the events, and the media group explained their contribution to the success of major sport events and to the social and economic development of the city.

With such an international forum taking place in Valencia one doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the America's Cup was one of the main subjects that were discussed and that Ernesto Bertarelli, founder and head of Alinghi, and Rita Barberà, mayor of Valencia, would be among the speakers.

Both, obviously, spent most of their speech talking about how successful the 32nd edition of the world's oldest sports competition was. Various figures were presented, like the 1.5 billion-euro overall economic benefit for the city. Nevertheless, all that is history and known to almost everybody even remotely related to the America's Cup.

The biggest novelty though was the public statement from Bertarelli that the 33rd edition will take place next year in Valencia, regardless of the outcome the law case might have.

33rd America's Cup
If Alinghi wins the court case, the Cup will remain here in Valencia for another year. Two regattas will be held in July and October and then the Challenger Selection Series and the America's Cup match next year. This doesn't come as a surprise since Bertarelli has repeated that statement a number of times.

What does come as a surprise is the apparent decision to relinquish the prerogative the Defender has, in case they lose the current legal fight. The Defender has the right to choose the venue of the match and reveal it 6 months before the race. Conventional wisdom wanted Alinghi to be globe trotting, looking for a venue that might upset BMW Oracle. Instead, a full year before an eventual one-on-one match takes place, Bertarelli announces it will also take place in Valencia, a venue whose weather patterns are perfectly known and studied for more than 5 years now... A bluff?

Of course, even Bertarelli's statement might not become reality if the negotiations with the city of Valencia, and the central Spanish government in Madrid, are not fruitful.

One issue that Bertarelli didn't clarify was whether BMW Oracle would be allowed to take part in the conventional America's Cup in case Alinghi won the court case. According to Alinghi's owner it doesn't only depend on him, the rest of teams would also have to agree on that. In addition, if Alinghi wins the court case and BMW Oracle is accepted to enter the 33rd America's Cup, Bertarelli hinted he could sue the American team for the damage caused by the current court case.

Ernesto Bertarelli talks about the 33rd America's Cup. Valencia, 3 March 2009. Video copyright Valencia Municipal Television

"We are in negotiations with the city in order to continue this very successful partnership. If we win, we will have a conventional multi-challenger America's Cup with new boats and as a result more people will have the chance to win. If the American team wins then Valencia will have a unique and spectacular event with two giant boats and that will be again a mark in the very very long history of the America's Cup".

Volvo Ocean Race
In an unrelated event in the Valencian city of Alicante, organized by its mayor, it was revealed that Volvo Ocean Race's management was in "advanced and promising" discussions with the city in order for it to be the starting port of the race in the next 3 editions. According to press reports, Angus Buchanan, Head of Sponsorship for the race organizers, stated that "Alicante was the most successful staring port in the history of the event". A "successful" close of these negotiations is expected within the "next few months".

According to the figures in an independent study by Deloitte, the Volvo Ocean Race village in Alicante counted approximately 900,000 visitors and the total economic impact of the race was calculated to reach approximately 90 million euros. In addition, the event's website totals more than 12.5 million visitors, in English and Spanish, with 40% of them coming from Asia. According to the same study, this edition's economic impact was 44% greater than the previous one (in the Spanish city of Vigo) and the total revenues from hosting the start of such a race equal those of a UEFA Cup football final and Ryder Cup, combined.

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