The man who aspires to be the Premier of New South Wales has admitted his interest in having Sydney secure hosting rights for the Australian Grand Prix.
In the wake of growing opposition to the ever-increasing costs and losses Melbourne is experiencing in staging the Grand Prix, alternative venues are being mooted should the situation deteriorate to the point where Albert Park – which has a valid contract to host the race until 2015 – is taken off the Formula 1 calendar.
And it would seem that the country’s largest city, Sydney, is the latest to join the list of cities that has declared its interest in staging the event.
The rivalry between Australia’s two largest cities has existed for well over 100 years, and any move to prise the Grand Prix from its southern neighbour may be but one piece of a broader plan that Sydney has to increase revenue at the expense of its interstate rival.
The state’s opposition leader, Barry O’Farrell (pictured) is hoping Sydney will be able to secure the hosting rights for many major sporting events, including the Australian Open golf and tennis tournaments.
“Bringing sporting superstars to compete in [Sydney-based] events also attracts thousands of visitors from interstate and overseas and the economic benefits are enormous,” he is quoted as saying.
The home of the 2000 Olympic Games has already put itself on the domestic motorsport map by hosting the V8 Supercars finale on a makeshift street circuit in the Olympics precinct, with the event proving particularly popular.
The O’Farrell-led Liberal Party is widely expected to romp to victory in the upcoming state election – which is, in the most inexcusable act of bad timing, slated to occur on the same weekend as the Australian Grand Prix – where it will take over from the rival Labor Party, which has been in power for 16 years and succeeded in virtually bankrupting the state.
The real concern with O’Farrell’s ambitions of taking the Formula 1 Grand Prix to Sydney is not that it couldn’t happen – granted, the event would be enormously popular and probably very well run over here – but that there simply isn’t the money for it.
Many voters would not react kindly to the investment in a once-a-year sporting event when it can very much be argued that there are other projects – most notably in infrastructure, transport, health and education – that would welcome the funding that a Grand Prix would otherwise swallow up.
Last year’s Australian Grand Prix racked up losses of over $50 million footed by the state’s taxpayers, and unless some serious budget cuts can be made, the losses will only rise further between now and the end of the event’s contract in five years’ time.
Melbourne’s mayor, Robert Doyle, has suggested that it was time for the city to consider letting the race go elsewhere. His comments were echoed by the state’s Liberal Party when it was in opposition, although now that it has been elected in the recent Victorian state elections, they have done an about-face and are now publically throwing their support behind the event.
However, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has played a strategic game by calling the mayor’s bluff, suggesting that he would consider losing Australia from the F1 calendar given the host of other nations and venues knocking on his door to stage an F1 race.