At the 11th hour the Government saw sense and agreed to provide the funding that will allow Galway to compete on a slightly more level playing pitch with its rivals in Lisbon and in our sister city of Lorient for the right to stage a second stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race. The commitment of the €4 million by sports minister Martin Cullen is a real boon to the region, as we know just how good an investment that amount of money is.
Now, let’s hope we get a chance to spend it, and that Galway will be given the nod when the decision is taken in March. No doubt there will be much lobbying on behalf of the Portuguese and French governments, but we have the advantage of having staged a unique stopover, the likes of which had never been seen before. In this respect,it was a sort of Riverdance, in that it shocked people with its simplicity, warmth and energy. Ports with a lot of experience in hosting such events were taken aback by the innovation that shaped the Galway stopover.
We know that if we are granted the second stopover, it will be even better, because this time around we know rather than hope that we can do it — it'll be a case of Let's Do It Again, Galway. Next time, there won’t be any tanks to move. Next time around, the people who missed out on the experience will make sure they attend and contribute. The sponsors who were unsure and cautious will hop on board. Those who flocked aboard the Green Dragon will want to be involved. Galway's bid should be an easy one to write as it will be the template for last year, plus much much more.
No doubt there would have been consternation among those who were wowed by Galway last year if the money had not been forthcoming for the bid; and if the application had been derailed by the shortfall of what would be just a tiny fraction of the revenue that would be generated by a second stopover, it would have been a disgrace, but fortunately sense has prevailed and backed with the representations of our Oireachtas members.
At least now, Galway can go forward with its bid secure in the knowledge that the money is there to make it even better.
Last evening, Tourism Ireland held a showcase in Galway city and it confirmed that Galway is at the centre of their marketing programme. It is well aware of how big a role the VOR played in that. They know, too, that their investment into the event last year yielded great results. So here’s to March and the next stage of this process. The best of luck to those who will be bidding on our behalf and well done to all who got us this far.