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OBA calls on Government to host America’s Cup

Plain sailing: the 2017 America’s Cup was a huge success for the island, according to the OBA (File photograph)

A proposal to put a bid in for the 2024 America’s Cup sailing competition was floated by the Opposition yesterday.

Ben Smith, a One Bermuda Alliance senator, said the island’s role as host of the prestigious race series in 2017 had given Bermuda massive publicity and generated huge income.

Mr Smith said: “The America’s Cup created jobs for Bermudians. It brought investment into our country and showed our people hope — a reminder of how great we can be if we work together.”

It was claimed at the time that the world’s sailing elite on the island would attract millions of dollars in revenue.

But the Progressive Labour Party, in opposition at the time, poured cold water on the proposal.

The PLP argued that the America’s Cup was elitist and that the expense of staging the event would outstrip income.

But Mr Smith told the public in an opinion article: “The PLP’s trick was to continue complaining about the ‘billionaire boat race’ to distract you from the $336 million benefit the 35th America’s Cup had on our gross domestic product.

“Political gain at the expense of progress for our community.“

He also accused the Government of putting political gain ahead of economic recovery at a time when many Bermudians were suffering.

Mr Smith said: “It will take strong leadership to swallow its pride and admit that the cup was good for Bermuda.

“SailGP will be a good first step, but why not make the big push to have the cup back in Bermuda?

“It would be the perfect relaunch of the Bermuda product after the darkness of Covid.”

Mr Smith added yesterday that the Government’s stimulus plan for economic recovery had not materialised — and that a chance to host another America’s Cup could provide “green shoots of recovery” for businesses that had struggled through the pandemic.

He admitted that a bid to host the event in 2024 was “ambitious”.

But Mr Smith said: “If we don’t start now, when do we start? In 2017 the America’s Cup put Bermuda on the world stage.

“Why don’t we at least make an effort to host it again? If you don’t ask, you won’t get.

“We’ve been through this process before. We’ve hosted the event before, so it’s not as if we’re starting from scratch.”

He added: “Our youth need hope. The island needs hope. This is an opportunity for the island and what’s the Government doing?

“We’re in a situation where we’re moving in the opposite direction.”

Mr Smith, a swimming coach who has trained Olympians, added that the America’s Cup was a watershed moment for the island.

He said: “It changed everything. To see that level of sports professionalism on the island — and to see how brilliantly we hosted it — was a game changer in so many ways.

“At the very least we should be communicating with the event organisers and seeing if we can set something up, if not for AC37, then AC38.”

The venue for the 2024 America’s Cup is still to be decided.

International news reports said New Zealand, Ireland and Saudi Arabia had submitted bids.

A government spokeswoman did not respond to questions from The Royal Gazette by press time last night.

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Published February 01, 2022 at 7:55 am (Updated February 01, 2022 at 7:58 am)

OBA calls on Government to host America’s Cup

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