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America's Cup Update—2012
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Last year Naples agreed in principle to host two stops on the America’s Cup World Series; the first in April 2012, the second in May 2013. With the news this morning (Feb 3, 2012) that Naples has been selected to host the first event in April, the city is scrambling to put Plan B into effect. Plan A had been to locate the whole thing in the bay of Pozzuoli as part of a grander plan to rejuvenate the economy of the town of Bagnoli, an ex-industrial center still very much struggling with the problems of how to cope now that the steel mills and cement factories are gone. For a variety of logistical, political and financial reasons, that site is not available. Plan B locates the boat races in the Bay of Naples, itself, along via Caracciolo, the main seaside road between Mergellina and the Egg Castle on the way into downtown Naples from the west (map above). The plan calls for locating all the support services along that seafront and in the large public park, the Villa Comunale, directly behind the road. In theory, the available space is ample. In practice, however, the plan also calls for closing that main seaside road and some adjacent roads as preparations move forward.
I'm very good at missing the Big Picture on these things. To me it's just a boat race for the well-heeled who can't ride horses well enough to play polo. And the fact that they have invented a series of run-up races (such as the ones in Naples) called "the World Series" leading up to the glorious America' Cup main event elsewhere-&-when (San Francisco, 2013) is just a way to hype it and make more money.
In terms of what it means for the city of Naples, the event is meant to go together with the World Urban Forum, a high-level UN conference on cities, to be held in Naples in September 2012, and something called the Universal Forum of Cultures from April through July of 2013. Again, in theory, this coming together of major events might indeed be a shot in the arm for the city, but the city is already on a perpetual IV drip of urban woes. Closing more roads for a boat race won't help. A letter to the editor in il Mattino points out that events such as the America's Cup in other parts of the world have typically put in place lasting facilities that have improved the subsequent condition of the site. That, indeed, might have helped to resurrect Bagnoli. But dumping it here, close to the downtown area? Roads will be closed and turned into parking lots for participants and their boats; traffic will be intolerable (no change there—it already is); construction on a nearby station for the new Metro underground train line will be slowed or even stopped for a couple of months (it is already months behind schedule), etc. etc. Every normal person who works for a living or has to get to school in the morning will be inconvenienced, and when it is all over, the sailors will sail away, having left nothing. But don't worry—they'll be back in 2013.
further update: March 10, 2012
[See also: the America's Cup items here, this miscellaneous item from Aug 2011, and, off-site, this article from Dec 2011 on Tony Quattrone's website, Naples Politics.]
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