Anthony M. Quattrone
One of the primary objectives of the municipal government led by the Mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, has been to bring to Naples some major international events which may act as a catalyst for urban renewal and may provide an economic boost for the tourism industry. Three international events that are scheduled to take place during the next three years may help the Mayor meet his objective. The World Urban Forum, a high-level United Nations conference on cities, will take place in September 2012. The event, which will focus on sustainable urban development, rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies, climate change and policies, is expected to draw some 20,000 attendees, including world leaders, statesmen, businessmen and academics.
The Universal Forum of Cultures, which was set by the previous Mayor of Naples, Rosa Russo Iervolino, will take place from 21 April through 10 July 2013. Last month, Mayor de Magistris changed the leadership of the committee responsible for organizing the event, by replacing Nicola Oddati, a member of the Democratic Party and a former alderman for culture of the previous city government, with Roberto Vecchioni, a nationally-known singer and song writer of Neapolitan origins. The forum, which is sponsored by UNESCO, seeks to bring together citizens from a varied range of cultures, languages, and religions to promote inter-cultural dialogue and to encourage global civil society empowerment.
Naples will be hosting two races of the America’s Cup World Series in April 2012 and May 2013. Mayor de Magistris, together with Luigi Cesaro, President of the Province of Naples, Stefano Caldoro, Governor of the Campania Region, and with Paolo Graziano, president of the Naples Association of the Industry Leaders, and chairman of the America’s Cup Napoli (CAN), confirmed on 14 September 2011 that an agreement had been reached with America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA), which is responsible for the commercial side of the 34th America’s Cup, to hold the event in Naples.
The initial intention of the city, provincial and regional authorities was to hold the races in the bay of Pozzuoli, thus locating all of the support services and housing the teams in the area of Bagnoli, on a former industrial site on the seashore. Bagnoli had been the home to a major steel mill, ITALSIDER, a cement factory and a chemical plant. The whole area has been free from industrial production since 1994, but reclaiming the land and ridding it of pollutants has been an uphill road, full of technical, legal, political and financial obstacles that have slowed down the process. Cleaning the area has required complex technical solutions due to the type and amount of substances polluting the land and the seaside. The courts have been investigating, on the one hand, the legal responsibilities of company owners and managers who are accused of not having taken necessary measures to avoid the heavy chemical pollution of the area. The courts have also been investigating public officials and private entrepreneurs regarding the award of contracts for conducting the clean-up operation. The Bagnoli area has been at the center of a political battle between environmentalists who would like to see the area return to its original condition, with an immense beach open to the public, and other who would favor building a major tourist complex, with a well-equipped marina. In the turbulent context surrounding all activities in reclaiming the old industrial site, financial problems have surfaced with respect to funding from the European Union and the Italian government, mainly connected to suspicion created by the ongoing legal investigations.
Regrettably, after that the officials from Naples had signed the agreement with ACEA, a judge placed the landfill, which is part of the former industrial site, on which the regatta village was to be constructed, off-limits due to an ongoing investigation. The Court of Naples has not yet determined if the offer by ACN to place removable constructions on the landfill is acceptable. With only 108 days left to the first race, Naples is now scrambling to adopt “plan B”, which would place the races in the actual Bay of Naples, locating all the support services on the main waterfront, to include the Villa Comunale (city gardens). If “plan B” goes into effect, Naples might be able to complete all necessary work prior to the race because the area of Via Caracciolo (the main road on the waterfront) is ample and the city gardens immediately behind the road could provide enough organized and well served space for hosting all of the support services for the different teams.
Closing Via Caracciolo to city traffic for the duration of the event will be a major challenge for both city administrators and for people going from one side of town to the other. The next 100+ days leading to the first race of the race will be quite challenging for everyone in Naples.