The Volvo Ocean Race continues to deliver huge economic benefits to its stopover ports. Whether this says more about the promotional muscle of the organisers or the latent demand for yacht racing by spectators it is hard to say – perhaps it is a bit of both.
Despite the overall winner having already been decided, the race for 2nd place has given the closing stages of the race another chapter of drama. Sunday’s in-port race saw Telefonica Blue come back from being stranded high and dry on a rock a week ago to winning the day, making the last leg count.
“So many people,” said Magnus Olsson at the end of the in-port race, the skipper of Ericsson 3 waving at the hordes. “There are millions.” Not quite, but the Stockholm race village is on course to beat its forecasted footfall targets, according to the provisional figures belonging to Ola Åstradsson, the port stopover manager.
Åstradsson believes approximately 70,000 people were in the race village for the in-port race yesterday, despite the action taking place nearly 25 miles away at KanholmsfjÄrden. It enabled the overall headcount for the race village to “pass the 400,000 mark”, a significant step towards surpassing the 500,000 target set for the stopover.
“We will pass 500,000,” Åstradsson added. “There is still a lot planned here and we expect to pass our target.”
Not included in those targets, but relevant to the stopover’s wider objectives, were the spectator fleet on the water. Olsson, sailing his home waters, promised the “biggest number of boats you have seen” and, ultimately, Åstradsson’s team think there were in the region of “3,000 to 4,000 boats”.
“Spectacular,” was the summary of Ken Read, the PUMA skipper.
But also for the City of Stockholm, who are funding the event’s presence here to the tune of five million euros. Åstradsson forecast that the local economy will be enhanced by 13 million euros in the short term as a result of hosting the stopover, while the City of Stockholm hopes the stopover will support their long-term goals.
“We have a couple of objectives,” Åstradsson said. “For us as an organisation, the objective is to create the best stopover ever. From the City of Stockholm, who financed this event, the objective is to market the brand of Stockholm worldwide. It’s strictly a business incentive to try to attract businesses, alliances, corporations to Stockholm in the next two decades.
“The city has an ambition for 2030, called Vision Stockholm 2030. The population is going to grow by 600,000 people. If you move 600,000 people they have to work somewhere. Our exercise is to build a brand name, create awareness of Stockholm as a place to base businesses and run high profile events. It is a long-term commitment.”
Little wonder that ports around the world are queuing up to bid for the right to be a stopover in the next race, the look of which is becoming clearer all the time thanks to the organiser’s round table meetings. In Stockholm, Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad stated the goal of the organisers of the race is to ‘become the world’s number one sailing event; that’s our ambition.’
How? The steps towards that goal are to
- increase the number and quality of teams in the next edition of the race,
- to increase media coverage with a focus on news and interactive media,
- to develop the race stopovers to a new level of quality.
In terms of stopover cities for the next edition, the list of potential ports has been winnowed from 82 to 34. The quality of the remaining bids is ‘outstanding’ according to Frostad. The critical path for port procurement will see the stopover ports announced beginning in March 2010.