A race even older than the America’s Cup

Published on September 19th, 2021

With the announcement that extra time is needed to sort out the venue for the 37th America’s Cup, this now offers more opportunity for the media to peel the onion a bit more. And as much as the America’s Cup should be held in the defender’s home of Auckland, the idea of it being in Ireland could be quite fun with reporting like this from Declan Lynch of the Independent:

(September 19, 2021) – The strange case of Ireland’s ambition to host the America’s Cup tells us a few things about how the world works. For a start it wasn’t really the ambition of all Ireland, as such, just people like politician Simon Coveney and the other yachting folk of Cork for whom this was always a beautiful dream.

And that dream was sold so beautifully at the start, mainly to RTÉ (Ireland’s National Television and Radio Broadcaster). A Six One News report declared the America’s Cup is the third biggest sporting event in the world after the Olympic Games and football’s World Cup – and that a successful bid could bring up to €600m into the economy.

Thus the PR game had scored a massive win against the truth, in what has been a race even older than the America’s Cup.

At the time I pointed out in this paper that these assertions were self-evidently ridiculous, but it wasn’t until last week that the matter really started being ventilated on mainstream radio – which of course is another example of how the world works, except we’re usually calling it earlier than that.

Moving swiftly forward, Shane Coleman on Newstalk Breakfast was calling it perfectly. He insisted that if you went out on the street and asked anyone about the America’s Cup, they’d hardly know what you were talking about. He had heard claims about a TV audience of 900 million, whereas a more reliable global figure had it down at something more adjacent to 70 million.

Not 900 million, or even 700 million, more like 70 million. And not €600m in benefits to the economy, more like €200m, which the Irish Government might have to contribute to secure this event that most of us have happily ignored forever.

Coleman went through this one like an ocean-going catamaran, seeking our old friend, a Cost Benefit Analysis. He mentioned the words “Finn Harps” football club to illustrate how much good €200m could do for needy Irish sports. Yet there was a strong counterpoint too from Ciara Kelly, who argued that maybe we need to attract the high-end type of person to Ireland too, that the €200m could pay off in the end.

But the really fascinating thing was how such obviously false impressions about the stature of this event had been created in the first place, and stayed out there for weeks.

On the same day Coleman was calling it, Today with Claire Byrne finally caught up with this one too, debating the wisdom of poor Paddy gifting that €200m for a yacht race which was originally reported as being essentially a gift to us, of €600m.

A big swing there, not far off a billion – though there was no mention on Claire’s show of how RTÉ had originally put out that scenario, in which the Irish people were told something we knew deep down to be wrong, yet had accepted at some level because…. because we assumed we must somehow have missed this global enthusiasm for high-class yachting?

Or maybe the trick is that it’s a potential TV audience of 900 million, which is only realized if people can actually be bothered to switch it on – which hundreds of millions apparently are not.

Shane Coleman got it – and the next day, the Government got it too.

Then again, many of us believe only what we want to believe. So we turn to Audrey Carville’s Morning Ireland interview with politician Mary Lou McDonald at the Sinn Féin “think-in” – despite much evidence that some of the thinking has already been done, by other people, somewhere else.

There was no mention in this interview of Sinn Féin’s ideology of nationalism, which is a bit like covering the Greens without mentioning the environment. This would always favor a Sinn Féin leader, because as they prepare for government, they’d prefer to be talking about their “policies” on pensions and the like, rather than their more colorful visions.

Yet what should have been a soft interview, became quite hard. Indeed, I even started to identify with Mary Lou, because she seems to spend about as much time thinking about pensions and other such trivial matters, as I do myself.

“I can’t give you a figure on that just now,” was a characteristic response.

Try €600 million… 900 million… it usually works.

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