Spain has doubled its chances of hosting the 37th America's Cup after Barcelona announced a bid to attract the event.
With a decision on the host set to be announced by Team New Zealand and the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron on March 31, Barcelona has joined Malaga, Cork in Ireland and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia on the shortlist.
Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton was last week in Barcelona - Spain's second-largest city and capital of the Catalonia region - to view facilities ahead of the defenders' decision.
Spanish media yesterday reported the Catalan government had thrown its weight behind the bid as a way to boost a tourism industry hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.
"The government has…announced that it authorises the Department of Business and Employment to undertake the necessary actions to promote the candidacy of the Catalan capital in order to win this event," La Vanguardia reported.
"The government is enormously interested in this issue since it considers, above all, that it implies an international projection for both the city and Catalonia and a boost to the recovery of the tourism sector."
The Catalan government was joined in support of the bid by the Barcelona City Council, with mayor Ada Colau saying: "The city has the infrastructure, the climate and the experience to be the best venue."
Team New Zealand were left to look for an offshore host for the regatta when they failed to secure necessary financing to stage the defence in Auckland, where they retained the Auld Mug last year.
Barcelona's entry into the hosting race came after Valencia, a port city in eastern Spain, was earlier this month ruled out of hosting considerations.
It also arrives a day after Malaga finalised its $121 million bid to host the event. Local media reported that bid, supported by the City Council and Regional Government of Andalusia, included upgrades to Malaga's harbour ahead of the 2024 regatta.
The four-city race, now in its final stages, could be complicated by the political realties of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Barcelona, Malaga and Cork are each in countries that are part of the European Union, which has been providing military aid to Ukraine. Spain is also a member of Nato, an alliance that could yet be drawn into the conflict.
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has been accused of siding with Russia by failing to condemn the invasion, with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman holding talks with Vladimir Putin while declining to increase its oil production to account for a Russian shortfall.
Formula 1 has this week faced criticism for going ahead with the Saudia Arabia Grand Prix in Jeddah, but chief executive Stefano Domenicali said the decision to race could help shine a spotlight on the country's questionable human-rights record.