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It’s a fairly well documented fact that major sporting events rarely meet their forecasted numbers to the host venue, and the political fallout from things like the World Cup and Olympics tend to destroy careers and governments while the economic hangover can destroy economies.  While the America’s Cup isn’t in the league of the true ‘majors’, for a tiny country like Bermuda, it’s proving to be quite the headache.

Since the awarding of the 35th AC to Bermuda in exchange for roughly $78 Million of local money and guarantees, the majority OBA party has lost its majority over the BDA government, with the opposition PLP party starting to storm the battlements while the world’s wealthy look on.  Last month, the PLP party won on two issues opposed by the ruling OBA but supported by non-rich, non-white Bermudans – the decriminalization of marijuana and the reduction of the island’s statutory interest rate,

The PLP called for a vote of “No Confidence” in Premier Michael Dunkley’s government that May election, and after realizing that he was probably going to lose it if allowed to continue, Dunkley on Friday dissolved parliament and called for a snap election on July 18th – after the AC is over, of course.

While Bermudians are way more polite than USAnians, it’s definitely getting hot on that little island; one newspaper calls the PLP’s move cynical and deceitful, while PLP supporters claim that shadowy government figures are behind mass mailings and anti-PLP propaganda posted all around the AC.  One local political watcher explained what may be quite invisible if you’re rich and like watching yachting:

“Mold in our schools; neglect of the needs of our seniors; break downs in our transportation system focusing on the upkeep of our buses. Cutbacks on education scholarships; Concluding an agreement to develop a new airport that gives a foreign entity control of that important asset for 30 years. Bermudian still facing a high level of unemployment prompting many to leave the country in search of better living conditions. This government has touted the America’s cup as the greatest economic stimulus in Bermuda’s history but to date that has not fully manifested itself in its impact on tourism. Numbers of tourists coming to Bermuda have in fact only reach the level that the former PLP government had reached before the  last economic downturn. In fact we now hear of workers in major hotels been put on short work weeks as the hotel occupancy levels have not reach expectations and this in the middle of the America’s cup.”

Russell and friends seem to have promised Bermuda the next AC if they can successfully defend the Cup, as most expect them to.  But will Bermuda want them back?  If it’s all about the benefit to the island as a whole and the decision is a democratic one, it’s looking less and less likely – just as we saw in San Francisco. If, as some detractors claim, it’s an opaque deal driven by moneyed interests?  Well, that sounds like the AC to us!

June 12th, 2017

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