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Julz’s World: From Inside Alinghi City, Geneva

Julz’s World: From Inside Alinghi City, Geneva

By Julie Symons

The Swiss certainly know how to welcome their heroes.

The Alinghi America’s Cup team arrived back in Geneva on Saturday amid much fanfare. The city threw a huge street party, the highlight of which was an incredible firework display over the lake. Crowds of people lined the normally quiet quays, cheering and waving while a launch slowly motored the Alinghi team along the end of the lake. Most astonishing of all was an enormous Alinghi logo projected by lasers onto the 450-feet Jet d’eau, one of the world’s highest fountains.

The Sunday morning papers splashed the spectacle across the front pages, with a headline that basically translated as “The triumph of Alinghi Attitude”.

This was echoed by a man who captivated the crowd from the balcony of a Geneva hotel on Saturday, yelling into a loud speaker rather like a dictator. We had the distinct impression he wasn’t part of the official celebrations, merely a regular citizen who happened to own a loud speaker and wanted his five minutes of fame, but either way he had an audience of at least a thousand people. My French wasn’t adequate enough to translate, but a friend assured me he spent much time thanking the people who funded the winning boat (apparently money is more important than skill), and informing the crowd that the losers didn’t have enough hope to win. Assuming he was referring to New Zealanders, I decided it was high time I disappeared into the streets to eat dinner, before the temptation to interrupt the Swiss on-the-street television interviews grew too overwhelming to ignore. I desperately wanted to throw myself at a camera screaming “New Zealand rocks!”

As it happened, our restaurant didn’t serve us dinner till 11.15pm, so by the time we finished eating (at 11.20pm, we were so starving!), we weren’t in the mood to return to the street party, if indeed it was even still happening.

I found a taxi and the driver instantly asked if I enjoyed the Alinghi fête.

“Well, yes, the fireworks were excellent,” I replied. “But, erm, ahem, I’m a New Zealander.”

There was a stunned silence while the driver absorbed this fact, then she launched into a long spiel about what a shame it was for New Zealand that their boats broke. I rather liked that taxi driver.

And although it seemed that the Genevois were really rubbing our noses in it (taxi drivers excluded), apparently that’s as far as the national pride went. I’ve been told, although I confess I’ve no proof this is true, that the America’s Cup hardly got a mention in the Swiss German part of this country – and I’m talking a good three-quarters of Switzerland here.

What intrigues me is where this land-locked country will hold the next Americas Cup. And whether there will be more fireworks displays. My loyalties can definitely be swayed when fireworks are involved.

© Copyright Julie Symons 2003

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