Page last updated at 06:37 GMT, Thursday, 1 October 2009 07:37 UK

Countdown under way to Ryder Cup

By Neil Prior
BBC Wales News

Ryder Cup course at Celtic Manor
The Ryder Cup course saw more than a million tonnes of earth and rock excavated

Three days, two million cans of a brand of cola, 200,000 burgers, a million and a half litres of water, 80,000m (50 miles) of cabling, 195 portable toilets, 500,000 paper towels, 400 large wheelie bins, 2,500 balls, 250 golf buggies, 300,000 extra people.

But just 24 players who can decide the destiny of the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort.

In exactly a year, the best golfers from America and Europe will contest golf's most famous prize in Wales for the first time.

John and Vivian Williams trying out the Ryder Cup course
Visitors John and Vivian Williams trying the Ryder Cup course

But despite the disease of cynicism which seems to pollute the build-up to all major British sporting events, in Newport there is a quiet air of optimism.

"We've been preparing for this for nine years now, so there's no excuse if anything goes wrong. But with the attention to detail which has gone into every single aspect of the event, we're confident that nothing's been left to chance," said Paul Williams, spokesperson for The Celtic Manor.

"We're different from almost every other Ryder Cup venue in history, in so far as this whole thing was the vision of Sir Terry (Matthews), and everything here was created bespoke with the Ryder Cup in mind.

"Other courses have held amazing events, working within the context of their existing resources, so just imagine how good a Ryder Cup will be when everything is made especially for that week."

The next 12 months promise to be among the most memorable in Newport's modern history
Newport Council leader Coun Matthew Evans

And all that attention to detail has included building elevated road crossings for the endangered dormice who live on the course, and tunnels under the holes to the River Usk to protect the native toad population.

In all, 1.1m tonnes of earth and rock were excavated in the construction of the 2010 course, flattening out the harsh gradients of the back nine, and using the aggregate to raise the opening holes above the level of the Usk's flood plain.

But the Ryder Cup is an event which has spread far beyond the limits of the Celtic Manor, consuming the entire city of Newport and beyond, and requiring the close co-operation of dozens of bodies.

"The next 12 months promise to be among the most memorable in Newport's modern history and a once in a lifetime opportunity to raise our profile on a global stage and get people feeling good about the city," said Coun Matthew Evans, Leader of Newport City Council.

"Hosting an event on the scale of the Ryder Cup is something many people thought could never happen in a town or city like Newport. The fact that we are now just a year away from hosting one of the world's most prestigious sporting events is something that should give everyone connected with Newport a huge amount of pride in our city."

Sir Terry Matthews
Celtic Manor entrepreneur Sir Terry Matthews, with the Ryder Cup

Unusually, in an age beset by apathy towards politics and politicians, both public and private sectors seem to be singing from the same hymn-sheet.

"In fairness, I think Newport City Council and the assembly have done everything practical to give the Ryder Cup the best chance of success, it's just a shame that it looks as though it's going to come in the teeth of one of the worst recessions in a generation," said David Russ, managing director of South Wales Chamber and Centre for Business.

Of course, one of the most notable victims of the economic downturn was the £200m shopping centre - Friars Walk - which was initially supposed to be completed for the Ryder Cup. In June, however, it was announced that the plans had been scrapped after the developer pulled out.

"It's true to say that there was a lot more planned for Newport than has actually happened, in terms of regeneration and exploiting the opportunity, but in the end everyone has to take a common sense perspective. There's no point in building shopping facilities and bars and restaurants if they'd be full for a week then empty for the next three or four years," he added.

But it is the Ryder Cup 'legacy' that is the one to capitalise on according to Mr Russ.

'Fantastic competition'

"We need to make sure that the whole city puts on an event which will fix Newport in people's minds as a place that they want to visit," he said.

"Speaking to people at the K Club in Ireland, they reckon that there's a 10 year window of opportunity in which to exploit the Ryder Cup, tailing off towards the end.

"It might be that we don't really feel the full benefit in the first few years, while the economy is so downbeat, but the challenge for us is keeping Newport in the spotlight, so we can cash in when things improve.

"And all that has to start with hosting a fantastic competition, not just on the course, but throughout the city."

The recession also couldn't have come at a worse time for budding entrepreneurs who bought into houses across that corner of south east Wales, with the prospect of being able to rent them out for upwards of £20,000 for the Ryder Cup week.

Artist's impression of Friars Walk
The Friars Walk development was scrapped earlier this summer

But for Sarah Rosser, property consultant for estate agents Newland Rennie Wilkins, the glass is still, nevertheless, half full.

"Yes, house prices haven't reached the sorts of levels which had been anticipated off the back of the Ryder Cup, and people who bought at the height of the hype in 2005 and 2006 may have got their fingers slightly burnt, but that's true all over the country," she said.

"I certainly think there is still a Ryder Cup premium in Newport, even if it's not as obvious as it was.

"Nationwide the market slumped by 20%, and even though things have dropped off a bit here, they've actually held up amazingly well compared with similar towns and cities - I think you have to put that down to the Ryder Cup.

"On the letting side, the £20,000 yields are looking a bit unlikely now - though you still may be able to get that for a luxury detached property. Even so, you're still looking at being able to make £2,000 or £3,000 for an ordinary house, so it's not a disaster by any means."

Policing challenges

For Gwent Police it's an undertaking on an unprecedented scale, for an event which has been likened to hosting three FA Cup finals back-to-back.

"Yes you could compare it to hosting three consecutive football matches of the size of the FA Cup final, but it actually poses a very different set of policing challenges," says Supt Nigel Russell from the force's special operations division.

"In the Millennium Stadium, once everyone's in, they're pretty much in the same place until it's time to begin the operation of ensuring that they all get home safely. At The Celtic Manor there'll be a much more fluid crowd, dispersed over a wider area.

"Transport-wise, we're not anticipating any problems. Every time there's a major event in the Millennium Stadium, the majority of the crowd will have had to travel through Gwent at some stage, so it's something we're used to.

"In the city we're hoping for something of a party atmosphere. We don't really think it'll be the sort of event which attracts widespread disorder, so we see our role very much as stewarding Newport and acting as guides and helpers to promote Wales, solve any problems people may have, and try and make sure everyone has a brilliant time in Newport."



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SEE ALSO
'Resilient' Newport looks to the future
07 Sep 09 |  Business
City's 200m shops plan scrapped
10 Jun 09 |  South East Wales
Wales confident of 2010 Ryder Cup
13 May 09 |  Golf
Station revamp ahead of Ryder Cup
27 Jul 09 |  Wales
Palmer warns of Ryder Cup weather
05 May 09 |  Golf

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