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Gordon Campbell on the America’s Cup, and Lee Marvin

Gordon Campbell on the latest non-story about the America’s Cup, and Lee Marvin

Like the Commonwealth Games, the America’s Cup is one of those large sporting events that is struggling to find anyone foolish enough to want to host it. San Francisco certainly found that the America’s Cup delivered far, far less than it promised. Not only did a major general uptick in economic activity fail to eventuate, but very few jobs for locals and only minimal buy-in from small business occurred. The official report showed that hosting the event left San Francisco local government $11.5 million in the red.

Because both the America’s Cup Organizing Committee’s fundraising and tax revenues generated by the America’s Cup events fell short of the original projections, the City’s General Fund incurred net costs of nearly $6.0 million and the Port incurred net costs of nearly $5.5 million, totaling nearly $11.5 million.

And moreover:

The impact of America’s Cup tourism on hotel occupancy was minimal with increases in hotel occupancy rates during the events generally less than one percentage point versus prior non-event years.

The America's Cup provided jobs for 517 city residents out of a total of 2,800 jobs (note original projections stood at 8,840 new jobs).


Instead of the promised $1.4 billion of extra business throughout the Bay Area region during the regatta, the eventual figure was $364 million over a three month period – a miniscule amount when compared to the normal tourism spend in the city during a similar period, and an amount that arguably could have been generated by local body investment (and attendant publicity) in almost any other major event or tourism campaign.

For all these reasons, the relative returns from the government’s imminent spend of circa $40–50 million on the America’s Cup should be the real issue of concern right now. Instead, over the past 24 hours, we have had a media flap as to whether skipper Dean Barker has or hasn’t been “dumped” to make way for “new gun” Peter Burling. That story was first leaked to a commercial radio station and then speedily denied, amid a consensus that a change of skipper by 2017 is inevitable, if only (a) to satisfy the sponsors and (b) gratify the public that some kind of renewal process is under way. The “Barker dumped” incident had all the hallmarks of a beat-up, engineered to generate public interest in the March 2 announcement that Auckland is likely to be hosting at least part of the challengers round for the 2017 contest.

Given the minimal US media coverage generated by the San Francisco Cup finale outside of the Bay Area, the international media interest in a challengers round held in New Zealand will be virtually zero. Yes, the foreign crews will pour money into those hotels and restaurants in Auckland that are suitably located – and some local money that would otherwise have been more widely spread around will be spent instead in the Viaduct Basin. But even so, just how a large government subsidy to the least needy in Auckland is in the national interest remains a mystery. As the Onion once memorably reported, it seems to be about one rich guy or another, winning a yacht race.

Lee Marvin, Remembered

If he was still alive, today would be Lee Marvin’s 91st birthday. We should all drink to that. In Britain, Marvin even had a hit record once, with his unique rendition of a song from Paint Your Wagon:

Several examples of his intimidating screen presence exist online, but this sequence – from the Budd Boetticher Western, Seven Men From Now – is a great one, brilliantly shot within the confines of a covered wagon.

And then there’s the walking scene from Point Blank :

And finally, here’s Marvin trying to sell you on the virtues of Pall Mall – you can light them at either end ! – as a mild-tasting cigarette experience. We seem to be pushovers, but its too bad we can’t hire this guy to sell the rest of the world on the America’s Cup.


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