by Denis G. Campbell
We’ve gotta have a great show, with a million laughs… and color… and a lot of lights to make it sparkle. And songs – wonderful songs. And after we get the people in that hall, we’ve gotta start em in laughing right away. Oh, can’t you just see it…?”
– Judy Garland, “Babes In Arms”, 1939.
Two weeks from today Wales’ big show ends and reality sinks back in. Since 2004 we’ve heard, “The world is coming to Wales” for the Ryder Cup, golf’s biennial corporate extravaganza. Is Wales ready to host the world? You decide.
Not many spectators from Wales will be there unless in the corporate or WAG elite, so fire up the SKY HD/3-D box, sit back and count on the huge economic windfall of jobs and companies locating here as a result of concerted efforts by Wales’ government-controlled economic development groups. Oh, I’m sorry… that coffee must have hurt spewing through your nose like that.
Shall we look at our vaunted economic development scorecard so far?
- Welsh Development Agency: folded six years ago into the Welsh Assembly Government
- International Business Wales: thankfully put out of its free-spending travelling misery with a bullet to the head this summer.
- Cardiff and Co.: still taking credit for everything that moves in Wales (did you know they were responsible for bringing the Ryder Cup, St. Davids and The Ashes here?) still somehow surviving (Well played sir).
- Welsh Assembly Government: now responsible for all economic development in Wales! Drum roll please… 68,000+ jobs lost from 1997-2009…
In fairness they did go to the Smithsonian Folk-Life Festival with 88-taxpayer supported “guests” in Washington and we were encouraged to be patient as the economic gains are coming (sound of crickets chirping). Indeed they claim some £14 million pounds in “business” came from that £3 million pound effort. Now after spending 17x that amount to lure the Ryder Cup to Wales?
We are so doomed.
September’s Unemployment Briefing report shows continued employment haemorrhaging of jobs lost forever to China. But hey, let’s put on a show!
You’d better hope the world’s media can ignore these realities as well as the WAG has. And about that show, what kind of welcome will the world get?
Last Friday evening driving to Bristol pre-rush hour there was a 7-mile traffic queue around Newport and Cardiff. Imagine when 50,000 people decide to leave Celtic Manor at the same time? The evening’s return journey required exiting the M-4 between 20:00 and 06:00 and snaking through and around downtown Newport as crews race to complete a 2-lane wide roadway for the tournament. Even those thinking at least the bridge will do well at £5.50 per car? If you are driving into Wales by car from the East and North a 2:00 am departure is not too early.
How will 50,000 spectators, thousands of the world’s press, television production crews numbering in the hundreds, PGA and European Tour Officials, team WAGs (wives and girlfriends) agents, coaches, PR flaks, masseuses and entourages will taking every inch of hotel space in an around the venue, get around?
We have six 3-4 star hotel properties in South Wales. Forget Celtic Manor (334 room) they were fully booked the day after the announcement. That leaves The Vale Resort (143 rooms), St. Davids Hotel (132), Marriott (181), Hiltons in Cardiff (215) and Newport (148) and that’s about 1,000 rooms a CEO from the Fortune 100 would even consider staying in. 50,000 corporate spectators, 1,000 rooms, do the math.
First Minster Carwyn Jones may get 10-minutes to say hello to Jeff Immelt, GE’s CEO but the chance of real substantive meetings and discussions at any time during the tournament are slim and none. If there, he will be watching golf and minding his NBC broadcast business, not Wales’.
Too, the example we hear is 4-years ago the world came to Ireland and the K Club. Well… not so much. Major corporations such as Nike, General Electric, Coca Cola, Microsoft, Unilever, Merck, etc. had key executives fly into the largest major city (in that case Dublin, in ours London) and helicopter to the venue in time for the day’s festivities and return by chopper back.
I was the guest of one such corporation choppering over from Cardiff directly to the venue, landing on the grounds, walking to the tournament and flying home. My economic impact on Ireland? €0. I didn’t even buy a T-shirt and all food and drink was catered.
I know three CEOs who are staying at The Dorchester (or similar) in London and doing the same thing to here. So when someone says there are huge opportunities? Slow down there Sparky. Let’s look at the real picture and ask how transparent the WAG will be about real business opportunity arising from Celtic Manor and the Ryder Cup.
It’s an honour to be chosen.
Yes, and this selection was a pure and simple business calculus. Just like the Ashes cost Glamorgan Cricket £3-4 million pounds to host and rebuild their clubhouse and stands, Celtic Manor spent buckets of money and hope to eventually recoup it by marketing itself as a Ryder Cup golf venue. Golfers from around the world will flock here to play it and EA sports will feature it on the Tiger Woods 2012 golf simulator game.
But with a £100 million in re-development costs plus £51 million spent by WAG (according to the BBC) to lure the three-day corporate golf orgy here, is it worth it? Most living here and dealing with the aftermath will only consider it a success when at least £51 million in hard, definable new jobs come to Wales. If and when that happens I will publicly apologise and retract this article.
This toll-bridge joke of a series of renovated Quonset Huts masquerading as an airport (for which on must pay £1 to drop someone off at the terminal?) is “proud” to welcome the US team charter? It was only after much haranguing that the team abandoned Plan A (to arrive in a real airport in Bristol) and endure this creaky Welsh icon and the slow slog to the tournament. I do hope they process them ramp-side and let them quickly board buses to escape. Of course it will take 45-minutes just to traverse the bumpy roads leading through Barry to Celtic Manor. Do you think Tiger will ask them detour by Gavin and Stacey’s TV house?
Let’s also hope there is no fog that day because there is no instrument landing system so how ironic would it be that they divert to Bristol? The Cardiff Airport shop featured Ryder Cup gear two weeks ago and it all looked very nice. Problem was you could only buy S, M or L. And since Britain has so many petite people, the lack of XL or XXL (as the bar served £10 pitchers at 4:45 am making one wonder if the patrons were starting anew or continuing from the night before and their charter flight to Spain) it is a small wonder no one was buying.
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Yes I am a cynic. And nothing from watching the last seven years of finger pointing and ‘small-ball’ parochial politics fills anyone with optimism that Wales can actually pull this off. Our lack of business and service ethos will be severely tested by foreign tourists demanding top-level service.
One can only hope that Wales’ vistas and the golf course will be the focus, because, like in most third world nations, simply splashing a coat of white paint over dirt, does not remove the basic structural defects. It is, to borrow from another country’s political vernacular, “like putting lipstick on a pig.”
Every business and political leader I spoke with grimaces and is crossing their fingers hoping it all goes smoothly… then just goes away.
Heck of way to run a country let alone a golf tournament.