Marseilles gears up for America’s Cup verdict

Marseilles' historic port could be home to the 2007 America's Cup Keystone

Switzerland’s Team Alinghi, winners of this year’s America’s Cup, will soon decide which town or city will host the next race, to take place in 2007.

This content was published on November 21, 2003 minutes

The French port city of Marseilles is among the four contenders still in the running.

On November 26, Marseilles will find out whether it has been chosen above Naples, Valencia and Lisbon to hold the 32nd America’s Cup.

As the decision gets closer, the city has pulled out all the stops in a bid to be selected to stage the next prestigious sailing competition.

The town council voted by a large majority in favour of Marseilles' bid, sweeping aside criticism that the construction of a new inner port and other infrastructure needed for hosting the cup, would be an eyesore.

The Communist Party and the Green Party were the only ones to vote against the project, which will cost €236 million (SFr336 million) (€125 in investments and €111 in administrative costs).

Media machine

When the search began for a port to host the next America’s Cup, Marseilles embarked on a high-profile publicity campaign.

Like the other three contenders, Marseilles is anxious to get its hands on the estimated SFr1.3 billion of direct and indirect income generated by playing host to the competition.

Not to mention the bonus of having television cameras from around the world trained on their city.

Since summer, publicity spots on television and radio, a poster campaign across the country as well as backing by such celebrities as footballer Zinédine Zidane, have put the city’s quest firmly in the national spotlight.

It may be no coincidence that, soon after Alinghi won the prestigious race, its billionaire backer Ernesto Bertarelli was presented with the legion of honour by French President Jacques Chirac.

The government also raised the stakes with the prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, pledging €40 million in funds to Marseilles if it is chosen.

Side business

AC Management, the company charged with the task of choosing a host, has given nothing away about its decision.

“We are continually asked, but the decision won’t be announced until November 26,” said an AC Management spokesman. “Only at this point will we go through the pros and cons of each candidate’s application.”

But although the decision process will officially focus on the applications, candidates have also offered Bertarelli various business opportunities behind the scenes.

Marseilles, for example, has offered Bertarelli priority over other investors on plots of land and building permits around the city. A commercial centre and a five star hotel are among the projects on offer.

However, these business deals are unlikely to be mentioned when AC Management gives the reasons for its decision.

swissinfo, Mathias Froidevaux (translation: Joanne Shields)

In brief

Marseilles' city council approved a bid to stage the next America’s Cup in 2007

The budget for hosting the event (including new port fixtures) is expected to reach €236 million (SFr336 million).

The French government has pledged €40 million to Marseilles if it is chosen as host city.

An estimated 5,000 jobs would be created in Marseilles as a direct consequence of staging the next America’s Cup.

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