News / USA

For America's Cup, San Francisco Return No Sure Thing

Oracle Team USA crosses the finish line during the 18th race of the America's Cup sailing event against Emirates Team New Zealand, Sept. 24, 2013, in San Francisco.
Oracle Team USA crosses the finish line during the 18th race of the America's Cup sailing event against Emirates Team New Zealand, Sept. 24, 2013, in San Francisco.
Reuters
After a spectacular America's Cup regatta capped by home-team Oracle's thrilling comeback victory, there should be little question about the event returning to San Francisco.
 
Yet the Cup has many critics in this famously liberal city, and they had plenty to say as controversies dogged the event in the long run-up to the exciting final series. It's far from certain that Oracle boss Larry Ellison — who, as the Cup holder, has the right to choose the venue — will be able to reach an agreement with the city for the next Cup, which is likely to take place four years from now.
 
Some local officials and political activists have objected from the beginning to city support for what critics deride as a rich man's yacht race. While most of the direct costs were born by the America's Cup Event Authority or recouped as part of complicated deals on infrastructure improvements, the city agreed to spend $20 million on policing, facilities and other services. City officials planned to raise the money from private donors but have so far come up about $4 million short.
 
"We would love to come back to San Francisco," Ellison said at a news conference Wednesday. "San Francisco's a great place. This has been a spectacular regatta. But we're going to sit down and talk with the officials in San Francisco and see if it's going to be possible to come back."
 
For the city, the economic benefits in the form of increased tourism, temporary jobs and the payoff from the images of San Francisco that formed a perfect backdrop for TV coverage are hard to calculate and have not yet been tallied.
 
Still, the Cup was not the boon to local businesses that officials had predicted. With only three challenger teams rather than the 12 to 15 once anticipated, the summer-long preliminary matches were interesting mainly for the wrong reasons — including a fatal accident and a cheating scandal — and crowds were far smaller than expected. Until the dramatic finale, local merchants complained that they hadn't seen much additional business.
 
Even after the finals began on Sept. 7, San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos quipped that there were "more California seals than people" taking in the action along the waterfront.
 
"San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, who was instrumental in negotiating the Cup deal when he was mayor, rejected the idea that the event had not been worth it for the city.
 
Newsom said the Cup's economic benefits would come in "well north" of the $480 million in economic activity generated by the most recent Super Bowl. He said it would be substantially more the next time around.
 
"All that heartache, all the lessons learned, all that's banked now," Newsom told Reuters. "We're uniquely positioned to take it to a whole 'nother level. Then the economic benefits are extraordinary."
 
If organizers change the boat design rules to lower entry costs and attract more challengers, as they have pledged to do, all agree that the economic benefits for the host city would be greater.
 
'Very, very complex'
 
Yet plenty of political and practical challenges remain. A new cruise ship terminal built by the city was the primary onshore venue for the event, housing a media center for some 550 journalists along with shops, restaurants, a concert arena and docking areas for officials’ boats and visiting mega-yachts.
 
Whether the city could make other arrangements for cruise ships so Ellison could use the terminal during a subsequent regatta is expected to be subject to negotiations. Another pair of piers that housed two of the challenger teams are set to become the home of a new arena for the NBA's Golden State Warriors basketball team — a franchise that Ellison, ironically, tried and failed to buy three years ago.
 
Newsom said finding locations wouldn't be a problem. “This is a huge waterfront," he said. "There'll be plenty of options if they choose to stay."
 
Ellison alluded Wednesday to lessons he had learned from the often-contentious 2010 negotiations with the city, which ended with one major part of an initial agreement — a deal in which Ellison would have renovated crumbling piers in exchange for development rights — being scrapped. Many local political leaders feared the city was giving too much away. Ellison said he and the city had unrealistic expectations when they signed "very, very complex development deals," with neither anticipating how difficult it would be to obtain federal and state development permits along the waterfront, or how costly it would be to repair city piers.
 
"There are so many different government agencies having to approve the development of the piers, and getting all of that done in a very short period of time was probably an overly ambitious ask on our part and very difficult for the government of San Francisco to actually deliver," he said.
 
Ellison insisted that he did not take the criticism directed his way by Cup opponents personally. Yet the city has long had a love-hate relationship with its billionaires, and local crowds appeared to be cheering for New Zealand until Oracle mounted its epic comeback from an 8-1 deficit to keep the trophy.
 
"My hope is that Larry Ellison will give the good people of San Diego the opportunity to subsidize his race the next time," quipped Aaron Peskin, a former supervisor and an influential Democratic power broker — though he conceded that he enjoyed the races.
 
Ellison certainly has plenty of choices. He joked at the press conference about racing around Lanai, the Hawaiian island that he purchased almost in its entirety last year. San Diego has hosted the Cup in the past, and for decades the races were run in Newport, Rhode Island, which unsuccessfully offered Ellison a sweet deal for this year's Cup.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs