Navigation

Naples awaits Alinghi verdict

Naples could be the site of the next America's Cup Keystone

Switzerland’s Team Alinghi is to announce on November 26 where it will defend sailing's America’s Cup in 2007.

This content was published on November 20, 2003 - 16:38

Four cities are still in the running: Naples, Valencia, Marseilles and Lisbon. swissinfo visited the Bagnoli site, near Naples.

Alinghi became the first European team in history to win the cup when it completed a 5-0 whitewash over Team New Zealand in Auckland in March this year.

But landlocked Switzerland has since been searching for a suitable European venue to host its defence of the trophy.

“Naples has the most beautiful bay in the world,” says Rocco Papa, the city’s deputy mayor. “The winds are similar to those which blow in Auckland, and our city needs an event of this kind to make it better known internationally.”

Lucrative prize

The hosting of the 152-year-old competition would be a lucrative prize in itself. It is estimated the event could generate revenue of more than €1 billion (SFr1.55 billion) and lead to the creation of 12,000-15,000 jobs.

Naples has identified the former industrial area of Bagnoli – 200 hectares fronting the Mediterranean – as the ideal venue to stage the 32nd America’s Cup.

However, there are fears that the site remains contaminated despite a clean-up. For almost 100 years, Bagnoli was home to one of Italy’s largest steelworks. And until 1990, factories such as Switzerland’s Eternit, which produced building materials containing asbestos, also operated in the area.

“The land is impregnated with heavy metals and hydrocarbons,” says Giulia Scherillo, professor of chemistry at the Federico II University in Naples. “And there is asbestos dust everywhere, including the district around the steelworks site.”

But according to engineer Giovanni Capasso of Bagnoli Futura – the public corporation charged with cleaning up the area and managing its redevelopment – the site is not a danger.

“The heavy metals are vitrified, and therefore quite harmless,” he says. “The hydrocarbon residues can be easily dealt with by removing contaminated earth from the site.”

Race against time

The 100 hectares set aside for the America’s Cup would have to be cleaned up by the end of 2005, to allow the new facilities (marina, hotels, athletes’ quarters, press office) to be built in time for the start of the races.

“Scientifically speaking, we do not have enough experience in cleaning up such huge industrial areas,” says Scherillo.

“Besides, we do not know exactly what pollutants we are dealing with, nor the amount of toxic material. So it is difficult to forecast how long it will take to rehabilitate the area.”

But deputy mayor Rocco Papa sees things differently: “Leading Italian experts have been studying the problem for some time and have already devised a strategy for making the area completely safe.”

Race against time

The 100 hectares set aside for the America’s Cup would have to be cleaned up by the end of 2005, to allow the new facilities (marina, hotels, athletes’ quarters, press office) to be built in time for the start of the races.

“Scientifically speaking, we do not have enough experience in cleaning up such huge industrial areas,” says Scherillo.

“Besides, we do not know exactly what pollutants we are dealing with, nor the amount of toxic material. So it is difficult to forecast how long it will take to rehabilitate the area.”

But deputy mayor Rocco Papa sees things differently: “Leading Italian experts have been studying the problem for some time and have already devised a strategy for making the area completely safe.”

The planning issue

But the controversy does not stop there: the site is also at the centre of a politically explosive planning battle.

After ten years of heated discussions, the city has at last adopted a comprehensive development plan.

But Alinghi wants tax concessions and the freedom to manage the whole operation independently. The Swiss are also demanding a marina twice the size of the one originally planned, large enough to accommodate 1,000 boats.

“We are not opposed to the America’s Cup,” says architect Vincenzo Russo of the WWF. “However, we cannot agree to a radical change in the city development plan which, instead of transforming Bagnoli into a nature reserve and cultural centre for the Neapolitans, turns it into a preserve of the yachting fraternity.

“The city, regional and national governments are selling out to Bertarelli.”

The Left and the Greens, who form part of the centre-left majority on the city council, are threatening to cause trouble over the bid.

But Rocco Papa denies that the city authorities are selling out or that Bertarelli has exerted undue pressure.

“We are proceeding quite properly. Bertarelli is asking us for concessions, for certain planning decisions,” he says. “The purpose of all this is to bring the America’s Cup to Naples.”

swissinfo, Paolo Bertossa in Naples

Alinghi

Area available: 200 hectares fronting the Mediterranean.
Planned investment of at least €300 million.
Creation of up to 15,000 jobs during the year of the competition.
Total revenues from hosting the event estimated to be €1 billion.

End of insertion

In brief

On November 13, the Italian government, the city and port authorities signed an agreement relating to the promotion of Naples’ bid.

The agreement provides for national, regional and European investment for constructing a marina at Bagnoli, in the industrial area formerly occupied by steel maker Italsider.

The plan is to build hotels, roads, railways and a marina for hundred of boats and a heliport.

End of insertion

This article was automatically imported from our old content management system. If you see any display errors, please let us know: community-feedback@swissinfo.ch

Comments under this article have been turned off. You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at english@swissinfo.ch.

Share this story

Join the conversation!

With a SWI account, you have the opportunity to contribute on our website.

You can Login or register here.