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America's Cup Construction Drawing Protests in Italy


Preparations for the America’s Cup are causing political ripples in San Francisco — but in in the Italian city of Naples, where warm-up regattas are planned, they are drawing high-profile protests.

Waterfront construction began this week in Naples, where 45-foot catamarans will race in America’s Cup World Series events this April and in May 2013.

But construction crews were met by a picket line of protesters who said the work would prevent fishermen from taking to the water and keep foot-traffic away from local merchants. They also said public funds would be better spent on other environmental programs and other priorities.

Some protesters reportedly dumped rocks at a construction site to prevent work from moving forward.

Andrea Santoro, a city council member, complained in a letter to the mayor of Naples that fishing boats would be moved to accomodate racing yachts, which would reduce the incomes of fishermen whom he described as "breadwinners" who reflect the city's history and traditions, ANSA English reported.

Ian Murray, the America’s Cup regatta director, on Tuesday told The Bay Citizen that event staff members are talking to officials in Italy.

“The people in Naples are saying all the right things; they’re doing the right things,” Murray said. “Signs are that everything is OK.”

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, city lawmakers are poised in the coming weeks to debate and vote on the financial terms of an approximately $100 million waterfront overhaul planned in advance of the regatta, which is scheduled to culminate with a final series of 72-foot catamaran races early next fall.

City Controller Ben Rosenfield published a memo Monday that said regatta organizers had received donation pledges worth roughly $12 million to help offset costs that the city expects to incur in hosting the event. Under the terms of an agreement with the city, the event organizers must eventually raise $32 million.

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