Saturday, 18 August 2007

What do the following places all have in common? Alicante (Spain), Barcelona (Spain), Toulon (France), Genoa (Italy), Arhus (Denmark), Kotka (Finland), Stockholm (Sweden), Szczecin (Poland), Liverpool (UK), Maloy (Norway), Bergen (Norway) Den Helder (Netherlands), Vigo (Spain), Tenerife (Canary Islands), Bermuda, Gdansk (Poland), Karlskrona (Sweden), Helsingör (Denmark), Lübeck-Travemünde(Germany), Rostock (Germany), Klaipeda (Lithuania), Halmstad (Sweden) and Belfast (UK)?

The answer is that all will be hosting a Tall Ships Race in the three year run up to Hartlepool’s turn in 2010.

Hartlepool is the finish port for 2010. Compare this with the city of Belfast (Population approx 5 times that of Hartlepool) which is the final Port for the 2009 race. Belfast appears to have a three year program of events already in place as a build up to the race. In 2006 they inaugurated an annual Maritime festival as part of their “Celebrate Belfast” year. This was judged a tremendous success with 55,000 people descending upon the city’s harbour. (Note that number, 55,000! Hartlepool are projecting 1,000,000 visitors, twenty times as many as Belfast attracted for an event that topped off a months of celebrations).

The Belfast 2007 event was held last month and attracted similar numbers of visitors. The Belfast 2008 event is already being advertised and Stenna Lines are offering weekend special rates on their Stranraer to Belfast Ferry Route for those who want to attend the festival. However, as a press release from the Council identifies “benefits are not reaped without hard work and preparation – and investment. We reckon it will cost somewhere in the region of £3 million to stage the 2009 Tall Ships event”.

If Hartlepool 2010 is to be the world wide show piece we are being promised then Hartlepool Council had better get its finger out!

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