Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Hole in One for Kent and Hungary with 2020 Golf Open win?

The announcement the day before yesterday of The Open golf tournament returning to Sandwich in East Kent is excellent news. With the tournament taking place 14 times already at Royal St Georges course it's one of the world's great events up there with the World Cup or Wimbledon - and terrific it has another vote of confidence in East Kent.

And Sandwich Royal St Georges is astonishingly evocative as the home club of James Bond author Ian Fleming and basis for the most famous round of golf in films in Goldfinger. Now with Heineken rather than vodka martinis.

2011 even saw Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke winning the cup. In 2003 rookie Ben Curtis trumped Tiger Woods.

And with 184,000 visitors to the event and millions more watching on television it's a great opportunity for Kent with forecasts of over £100M in direct revenue.

Tracey Crouch UK Sports Minister and her Chatham constituency are right to cheer on the successful announcement for East Kent. It could even be the harbinger of a new City of Culture bid given the success of Hull this year and the previous East Kent entry.

And calls by Kent business organisations for a Creative Industries strand to the Thames Gateway regeneration project. And the Turner Art Gallery urging support too marks a seachange for East Kent.

### Champagne on ice?###

But beyond the hyperbole and champagne corks how best to maximise the event?

Logistics is one thing, with spectators queuing for hours at the previous Open to access the site - electric buses must be more important than ever. Recycling the mountains of waste too. And tweaking the excellent HS1 hispeed rail connections between Ashford, Ramsgate and Dover.

Even tweaks to the dire rail connections to the Gatwick Express and Hastings and Brighton. And why not the Royal Train as a special feature between London and Kent?

And ensuring the Channel Tunnel Shuttle Train through to Lille is in place as part of the Kent strategic links to Benelux and France.

And it's hardly so outrageous to consider in detail whether a second Channel Tunnel is needed for UK over the coming decades given the first freight train from China last month and ASEAN and MENA-Cape2Cairo reforms underway.

Or even a rejig of freight through the choked SouthEast to Southern Ireland and onto Scotland.

And few visitors would thank Kent for not working more closely with the Met Office and NOAA in Hawaii on seasurge and tsunami sensors and tighter volcanic Resilience.

Even a new passenger ferry for Ramsgate, as part of the Sea2Sea EU project linking Ostend, Dunkirk and Boulogne, would be vital to ensure Continental visitors have an easy way to visit the event.

As well as driving a nail in the coffin of the foolishness of Brexit for Britain's most welcoming and European county. And something more than Kent's failed 1970's industrialisation of cars and lorries driving through and away leaving only smog, cancer and litter - whether at Dover or Ramsgate ports and Stack.

### Sport for the masses ###

The jewels in the crown of Kent's golf courses should also be part of a wider sports focus with the new Ramsgate swimming pool - indeed a swimming pool in every town and Olympic pool in every county - and ice rink, and Margate beach volleyball events part of the mix to also beef up Kent's weaker football and rugby offerings.

And teeing up the new 2020 Olympic sports of surfing, skateboarding, and climbing etc plus display sports such as takraw. As well as Kent's reconsideration of those sports cut by Sport England/Olympics funding such as Badminton, Archery, Fencing or Wheelchair Rugby.

And much of the Sports Town of Ebbsfleet should be launched by 2020 too.

But Kent is struggling over the basics such as scruffy beaches, derelict town centres, parking on the seafront and tatty tennis court nets hardly bodes well.
As KCC Leader 2017 and MP 2020 I will make the successful delivery of The Open and related sports events paramount to Kent.

Certainly an overhaul of Richboro Roman fort, the Canterbury Pilgrim trail and new Landings Jorvik-style tourist attraction and Van Gogh Gallery need a kick-start. Along with EKFOS East Kent Film Office and Studio, KORA Kent Oriental Restaurant Association and Pavilion jazz club and Buddhist temple.
Watjazz if you will.

### Kent beyond just a cement and stagnant economy ###

How will The Open open up Kent to visitors?

Almost 200,000 spectators applying for tickets must be in line to receive a heavy dose of marketing about Kent's attractions? And for those couch potatos watching on television how will The Open be further packaged to attract them to Kent in future?

If we're not careful, the hype of the event could outweigh its practical impact.

I speak from personal experience having visited the2003 Open - and I'm no massive golf fan I joke with friends I'll carry their bags so I can enjoy the walk, although I prefer Crazy Golf, the pyramid with the hole on top, or the windmill. Hours of fun - and saw minimal marketing before and during the event.

Blink and you'll miss one of the world's great sporting events, unless you're a golf fanatic, wouldn't be ideal for Kent or The Open.

This Summer's revitalisation of East Kent events with the Ramsgate Film Festival, the Swiss Red Arrows, Yacht Week and Dunkirk are the first stirrings of vital improvements needed through to 2020 and beyond.

Why shouldn't sponsored golf buggy-taxis be zooming along the highways and byways of Kent. Panasonic batteries for one would no doubt want to plug into that opportunity.

Liberation Route Europe put together by Martin Schulz who this year may end up running Germany as Chancellor would be a stalwart of Kent and Benelux Tourism by 2020. And our friends in Virginia, as well as San Diego and North Carolina if not further afield, would want to be invited to the golf jamboree.

And wider sports diplomacy whether Kent or Loei strawberries and cream.

Where are the Hungary links with Bacs Kiskun that KCC has already invested in?

The Kent Police, Ambulance and Fire Blue Light Football Cup hasn't as yet developed a Rugby and Golf offshoot. Nor are the Royal Engineers and Ghurka and Royal Marines links maintained with Kent despite barracks closures.

Tracy Emin and arts permutations of sports are needed too under the oversight of the Turner Gallery, something beyond a UKIP Triumph of the Will.
If I live near the event and don't know of it how will those overseas or in nearby Europe know of it?

A sporting equivalent of Liberation Route Europe - for Kent's Brands Hatch or Dutch Battle of Medway event driven forward by Medway Tourism #BOM350, and Armada events too - is needed to synergise and energise Kent with the Benelux markets.

Apart for the few hours at the event it could have taken place on the Moon for all the specific relevance to Kent - and surely unacceptable now social media is so widespread.

Until now.

Will the 2020 Open be the first challenge for the East Kent Supercouncil in doing more than bin collections? Certainly a TeamOpen needs creating immediately to begin planning for the event.

Tourism and Creative Industries are key industries for Kent and East Kent.

Warm words but inaction or delay could leave Kent puttering along on the slow train of sports - economic regeneration.

Time for Change


* ShinerGate: astonishing failure of UK legal system and High Court: lawyer of the Year struck off a year later and Grabiner still a High Court judge with Aracadia now following BHS pensions: more later.

* Shambolic Business Rates plans by Government - a tax that effectively discourages entrepreneurhship and business merely to fund public sector bloat - reform needed.

* Pedzone: cars parked by park kiosks and seafront bizarre and pavements. Clamp and crush needed and pedzone seafront/marina expanded.

* KCC candidates review later: a feeble election again - cannot see the point of Latchford, Heale and Shonk after 5 years at KCC, nor doublehatters.

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