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We should be behind Oracle but this is Bermuda after all

So this is it. The time has come. All the planning, practising, foot stomping, politicking and praying since Sir Russell Coutts and Grant Gibbons hoisted the gleaming “Auld Mug” at the forefront of a motorcade for the ages have led to this one grand moment: the opening of the 35th America's Cup, presented by Louis Vuitton.

This spectacular archipelago of little isles joined together by viaducts as large as the Causeway and as small as Somerset Bridge will be seen as never before — by millions around the world.

That is fantastic for selling Bermuda as a tourism product, and super fantastic for the prospects of hosting top-class international sport on our shores in future.

We already have some fascinating dates to look forward to, including the World Triathlon Series next April featuring our very own superstar in Flora Duffy. And then there is the chance of even more America's Cup racing if Oracle Team USA defend successfully and follow through on promises to keep the “Cup on de Rock”.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

First there is the small matter of a month of racing, and Land Rover BAR, Artemis Racing, SoftBank Team Japan, Groupama Team France and Emirates Team New Zealand, the self-styled lone wolf, will be desperate to knock the Americans down a peg or two.

Bermudians, you would think, should be solidly behind Oracle, but that's not how we roll.

There is sometimes no rhyme nor reason for why we support who we do. At times we align ourselves with winners, then change teams with no sense of loyalty the moment things take a turn for the worse — front-runners.

Nationality and heritage equally are no determining factor. But the underdog and those who have persevered in the face of adversity will often find favour.

It helps to explain why Artemis were so popular in October 2015 during the Louis Vuitton World Series Bermuda. The Swedish challenger suffered a terrible crash with an officials' boat during racing but managed to recover to capture the series and win many Bermudian hearts.

That they have continued to improve and dominate much of the practice racing on the Great Sound will not have been lost on those fans with the clinging disposition of a carpetbagger.

Land Rover BAR will have many supporters among our British expatriate workers and those who have made Bermuda their permanent home, while there is a sense of mystery about the Japanese and the French. The Kiwis, though, will attract followers for their storied history and for wearing the tag as a rebel with a cause.

They have resisted almost every suggested change to America's Cup rules in the past four years and, with Auckland left at the altar, were the most vehement about the races coming to Bermuda.

That will not stop more than a few locals from cheering for them — especially those who have had little good to say about AC35, the worst of the criticisms being that it is an elitist sport for rich white men.

There's something about the silver fern and also about rich whites being easy targets.

One politician recently dismissed the America's Cup as “a sailing race” when trying to make a point about how it paled into insignificance when set against the plight of unemployed and underemployed Bermudians.

But in the shadows of every major games is a ghetto or story of want. 'Twas ever thus. But events such as London 2012 can be looked back upon fondly as being among the most successful Olympics of modern times — no matter that it took the displacement of many low-income earners in East London to build the infrastructure that would lead to the regeneration of Stratford, one of the more deprived districts in the English capital.

The stated legacy of the America's Cup for Bermuda is the Endeavour Programme, but the goodwill for the country is unquantifiable. You would have to be a Scrooge to see it any other way — 22 square miles surrounded by water but showing no appreciation for watersport? Go figure.

Bermuda's greatest selling point is not our “friendly” people — there is too much enmity in good times and bad, election time or not, to continue peddling that untruth — but rather the stunning views and the spectacular water that have remained true to us.

Long shall they continue.

In the beginning: Sir Russell Coutts, left, and Grant Gibbons, the Minister of Economic Development, who was responsible for sealing the bid, soak up the adoration of the crowds during the motorcade that introduced the America's Cup to Bermuda (File photograph)

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Published May 27, 2017 at 9:00 am (Updated May 28, 2017 at 12:57 pm)

We should be behind Oracle but this is Bermuda after all

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