San Francisco, host to the 34th America’s Cup shined brightly on the race’s opening day. Shortly after 1:00 pm on September 7th, Emirates Team New Zealand took on defending champion, Oracle Team USA under a cloudless sky and 83° temps. Sailing, a sport usually reserved for the privileged was on display for any and all who wished to watch. From the Marin Headlands to the GGNRA’s Crissy Field to San Francisco’s waterfront, people were out in force watching the most expensive sailing race in history. The majority of the spectators were not attending receptions at premium corporate tents but enjoying the Bay Area’s best free publicly accessed venues. Cyclists on Marin’s Conzelman Road pulled aside to see two “Formula One” style catamarans battle it out. San Francisco’s contribution to the event was chamber of commerce weather and little else. Sadly, neither the City or large locally based corporations, save Charles Schwab and Kaiser Permanente embraced America’s Cup.
From Fort Mason to the Marina Green, home to the America’s Cup Village, to the Golden Gate Bridge, locals were prominent. Entrepreneurial children sold lemonade on Marina Boulevard, people picnicked and hiked along the San Francisco Bay Trail and dogs romped on the Golden Gate Promenade. People consulted iPhones to determine race stats and photographers shot photos of amazing boats and yachts on parade. At Pier 23, the vibe was international with a large Kiwi presence especially at The Waiheke Island Yacht Club where kegs ran dry after a victorious first day. At the Pavilion, Mill Valley’s Sammy Hagar was preparing to rock a capacity crowd. Lines were long at the various America’s Cup logo shops which had just been restocked. Business was booming and the cash registers ringing, but San Francisco seem to shrug its shoulders at AC34. An opportunity missed.
A world class event in an international city should have garnered tremendous support and national interest. Political correctness affected the event from the inception. The NIMBY attitude by those opposed and the lack of corporate leadership from those who could lead, led to negative press and opposition. One report in 2010 suggested that the San Francisco Bay Area would see $1.4 billion in economic activity during the Louis Vuitton and America’s Cup races.
On Sunday, September 8th, the San Francisco Forty-Niners open their final San Francisco season against the Green Bay Packers at Candlestick Park. Beginning in 2014, the Niners will play all of their home games at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, forty-one miles south. Hasta la vista, Niners, it has been a great sixty-seven year run. Another missed opportunity for San Francisco.