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Valencia will stage America's Cup

Valencia celebrates its selection to host the 2007 America's Cup.

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GENEVA, Switzerland -- Swiss organizers of the America's Cup have named the Mediterranean port of Valencia, in Spain, as the venue for the 2007 series.

Sport's oldest sporting competition returns to Europe for the first time since the inaugural race around the Isle of Wight in 1851.

America's Cup rules state the race must be held on the sea so Swiss winners Alinghi have had to look outside their landlocked country.

Alinghi, bankrolled by Swiss biotechnology billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli and skippered by now three-time America's Cup winner Russell Coutts of New Zealand, secured an historic win against the previous defenders Team New Zealand in March off Auckland.

The Portuguese capital Lisbon, the French port of Marseilles and Naples in Italy were the other candidates to stage the event, which could be worth hundreds of million dollars and thousands of jobs to the hosts.

Initially, 60 cities in Europe and around the world expressed an interest in staging the 32nd Cup regatta.

Alinghi cut this down to eight and then drew up a shortlist of four in September.

Each bid city completed a detailed dossier on all aspects of its plans, including weather studies of the intended race areas, financing, construction proposals for the America's Cup village and an outline of plans to make the event as appealing to the public as possible.

Swiss Team Alinghi won the trophy in Auckland in March

It will be the first America's Cup not to be staged in the home waters of the holders and the first to be held in a non-English speaking nation.

'Great prestige'

Spanish Olympic Committee President Jose Maria Echevarria said the choice of Valencia represented a "great prestige" for Spain, while vice-premier Javier Arenas stressed the economic boost for the northeastern Spanish city.

At the Royal Nautical Club of Valencia, which had promoted the city's candidacy, members celebrated with cheers, hugs and champagne. "This will have an immeasurable importance for all of Spain," club vice-president Manuel Pons said.

"Only the Olympic Games are a comparable event, and Valencia will have to make use of this opportunity. We will stage an unforgettable event," he pledged.

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