In a round table organized exclusively for its master’s students, Johan Cruyff Institute brings together representatives of the key organizing entities of the 37th America’s Cup to be held in Barcelona from August to October 2024
Barcelona invested many efforts, commitment, organizational power, economic resources and the enthusiasm and involvement of all its citizens to host the 1992 Olympic Games, described as “the best games in history” by Juan Antonio Samaranch, who was the IOC president at the time. Thirty-two years later, the city is once again joining forces to organize sailing’s America’s Cup 2024, the third sporting event with the greatest economic impact for the host country after the Olympic Games and the World Cup.
Johan Cruyff Institute brought together at the facilities of the Fundació Barcelona Capital Náutica (FBCN) representatives of three key entities involved in the preparation of the event. Ignasi Armengol (general director of FBCN), Albert Vilumara (business director of ACE Barcelona), organizer of the event, and Sergi Romera (territorial planning and project manager of the America’s Cup Office of the Port of Barcelona) explained the incredible management entailed in preparing the biggest sailing competition in the world, known as ‘the Formula One of the sea’.
As a high-level competition team, FBCN, ACE Barcelona and Port operate together, coordinating their tasks in perfect sync. The FBCN acts as a single office in relation to ACE Barcelona. From its offices come all the procedures, permits and delegated projects for the organizer to develop the event in a big way, without impediments of any kind. The Port of Barcelona, which is being transformed to host the event in record time, is also fully complicit in this.
All the organizations and entities that were involved and worked to present the candidacy to host the America’s Cup (the four major public administrations representing the Government of Spain, the Generalitat de Catalunya, the Ajuntament de Barcelona and the Diputació de Barcelona, along with the Port de Barcelona, the Chamber of Commerce of Barcelona, the Tourism Consortium and Barcelona Global, which brings together entrepreneurs who want to make Barcelona a pole of attraction at the business level) decided to join together in a single entity to coordinate the entire operation. That entity is the Fundació Barcelona Capital Náutica (FBCN).
“At the Foundation, previously called the Fundació Navegació Oceànica de Barcelona, we had achieved great prestige by organizing three World Race regattas starting in Barcelona and two editions of the Barcelona-New York race,” explains Ignasi Armengol. To embark on the challenge of the 37th America’s Cup they changed their name, as it is not an ocean race, and the relevant statutes to include elements related to the development of this competition.
“One of our competencies is to provide the organizer with all the essential elements to hold the event: from legislative and regulatory issues to issues regarding the use of public space in the city” – Ignasi Armengol (general director of FBCN)
“One of our competencies is to provide the organizer with all the essential elements to hold the event: from legislative and regulatory issues that entail the modification of laws such as the consideration of the event as an ‘event of exceptional public interest’, to issues regarding the use of public space in the city,” explains Ignasi Armengol.
A historical legacy
At the same time, the FBCN also aims to raise public awareness, educate and disseminate the values of the America’s Cup through legacy projects that will have a lasting effect on the coast and in the world of sailing. “An example of the impact that an America’s Cup can have is the fact that Barcelona has been chosen as the venue for the next UNESCO World Congress on ocean sustainability,” said Ignasi Armengol.
Some of these projects are: the organization of a traveling exhibition of the America’s Cup that will be held over the next 18 months in different cities of Catalonia and Spain; promoting the decarbonization of the nautical sector through innovation projects; the construction of a Nautical Technology Center within the facilities of the Port of Barcelona, as well as an online postgraduate course specializing in high-level competitive sailing and the events ‘Viu la vela’ [long live the sail] and ‘Deporte Azul’ [blue sport] for young people, consisting of the organization of a week of nautical sports similar to the ‘white week’ in skiing, among other approved projects.
All hands on deck
A year ahead of the America’s Cup, the changes in the Port of Barcelona are already starting to become visible. Barcelona carried out major infrastructure changes for the Olympic Games, redeveloping the beaches and the seafront, and the whole city turned its gaze to the sea. The 37th America’s Cup will not only benefit from that legacy, but will once again bring out the transformative power of a sporting event of this caliber. “We want it to be the best America’s Cup in history,” says Sergi Romera. And he is not lacking in arguments.
The transformation of the port is being carried out taking into account the needs of the teams and the organization and will leave a great legacy, as did the Games. The Swiss team, Alinghi Red Bull Racing, has been based in Barcelona since July 2022, the American Magic team from the United States did the same this June and the rest of the teams will arrive in the city between July and August. The Port Vell will be their home for a whole year, and Barcelona their place of residence.
“It has been a great challenge to advance the arrival of the teams by one year, but for us it was important to integrate the America’s Cup into the city, for people to enjoy the competition and for the teams to be installed in the Port Vell, accessible and visible to the public,” said Sergi Romera, Port of Barcelona‘s territorial planner.
“It has been a great challenge to advance the arrival of the teams by one year, but for us it was important to integrate the America’s Cup into the city, for people to enjoy the competition and for the teams to be installed in the Port Vell” – Sergi Romera (territorial planning at Port of Barcelona)
“The America’s Cup has served as an incentive to bring forward works that were already planned, but their execution had to be brought forward by a year. A total of 70 million euros were earmarked for investment in 19 projects that have been brought forward to be ready for the America’s Cup and are spread throughout the Port Vell area. A very optimistic and ambitious proposal was made and is now being executed,” says Romera.
This great transformation involves, among other actions: the construction of a promenade in the new Bocana, which will be ready this summer; the Mirador with a restaurant and terrace; the new Llotja de Pescadors, the America’s Cup Experience (a space for promoting the race, with simulators, conference room and projections that will occupy the space of the old Imax with a complete interior remodeling, which will be inaugurated this summer), and the demolition of the Cinesa cinemas of the Maremagnum.
Even the operational bases of two large shipping companies, Balearia and Creuers del Port, will have to be relocated to make room for the team bases, and the landing paths at El Prat Airport will have to be modified to make them compatible with the regatta course, where helicopters and drones will coincide for the television coverage, which will be free-to-air. “That involves a legislative change in the Spanish Parliament that has to go to the Senate, and is just one example of the nine different regulations that have had to be modified,” explains the director of the FBCN.
“The America’s Cup is the oldest continuously organized sporting competition, having its origins in 1851. It is a competition that represents the most advanced technology in the sailing world and it is a rewarding challenge for any country to win it. Not only because it gives you the right to choose the venue for the next edition, but also the type of boat to be used,” explains Albert Vilumara, business director of ACE Barcelona, organizer of the competition.
“The Barcelona bid more than met the requirements in terms of innovation, sustainability, diversity and inclusiveness” – Albert Vilumara (business director of ACE Barcelona)
Emirates Team New Zealand, as defending champions of the title won in the last edition held in Auckland 2021, chose Barcelona as the host venue for different reasons. “The goal is to get the competition to as many spectators as possible and it is hard for Auckland to broadcast the competition live. That’s why they made the difficult decision to leave their country, thinking of somewhere where they could ensure a good organization and larger audiences,” says Vilumara. From there, the Barcelona bid more than met the requirements “in terms of innovation, the firm commitment to sustainability, diversity (it is the first time in history that there will be a Women’s America’s Cup, in addition to the Youth America’s Cup, now in its third edition) and inclusiveness. In this sense, it was essential for us to open the competition to everyone and move away from any elitist vision. The action can be followed from the beach, with the race course located between the Hotel W and the Hotel Arts, with free access to everyone,” explains Vilumara.
According to a report prepared by the Pompeu Fabra University, two and a half million visitors are expected during the competition months. “The event will attract a lot of tourism and clients from sponsors and Barcelona will be very lively during those dates,” says the organization’s representative. That’s without taking into account the teams, their families and support staff. “Each team is made up of some 120-130 members, including the competition team, engineers, meteorologists, technicians, trainers, catering staff, nutritionists, etc. Some 1,000 families will settle in Barcelona until November 2024. The economic impact does not just correspond to the 70 days of competition, but to a whole year.”
“Some 1,000 families will settle in Barcelona until November 2024. The economic impact does not just correspond to the 70 days of competition, but to a whole year” – Albert Vilumara (business director of ACE Barcelona)
On the other hand, the arrival of spectators in the city will be progressive and the expected length of stay will be two to three days. “We are working on offering a complete cultural agenda to foreign visitors, since the regattas last about two hours. Barcelona is a city that handle a lot, it is expected to have 35% more visitors than in a normal September, and we have the capacity to receive them without this seeming crazy,” adds Ignasi Armengol.
According to the UPF report, the 37th America’s Cup would have an economic impact on Barcelona of around 1.2 billion euros, in addition to boosting the international image of Barcelona and Catalonia.
The organization has also launched the volunteer plan, with the opening of the registration process for adults who have a minimum availability of 10 days between August and November 2024. Barcelona was also a pioneer and an example in 1992. “We will select personnel to fill some 2,300 volunteer positions, 2,000 on land and 300 at sea, who will collaborate in around 50 different tasks,” explains Vilumara. “I was a volunteer at the Games and we are very aware of what that movement implies in this city.”
We will not have to wait too long for the first trial by fire. The first preliminary regatta will be held in Vilanova i la Geltrú from September 14 to 17 this year. “For that event, we will already have 350 volunteers. We will be able to see all the teams competing for the first time and it will help us at all levels to continue shaping the America’s Cup in Barcelona,” says Vilumara.
It will be a test at the operational level and a foretaste of the great event that Barcelona awaits with the utmost enthusiasm and certainty of a job well done. The 37th America’s Cup is another great opportunity to make Barcelona the world capital of sport, where innovation, sustainability, diversity and inclusiveness will once again go hand in hand.
Header image: Emirates Team New Zealand.