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A small price to pay

Small-mindedness, selfishness, negativity and misinformation; cue all of the preceding as yet another round of debate looms over the Australian Grand Prix and its future in Melbourne.
Saturday, February 16, 2013

February 16th, 2013 (F1plus/Jacob Polychronis).- Bickering and moaning have become steady by-products of the Australian GP, particularly in recent years. While there has always been campaigners attempting to pressure the Victorian Government into forgoing the event, it was leaked details about costs to the tax-payer that added fuel to their fire of discontent.

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It was revealed in September last year that the 2012 event cost Victorian tax-payers between $55 and $57 million dollars. This was an increase from 2011 which cost $50 million. Further enraging anti-GP protestors was the recent revelation that the event incurs a $30 million dollar fee which is emptied into the pockets of Bernie Ecclestone. While these figures (providing they are entirely accurate) initially seem excessive, it is a necessity to pay this price.

The necessity can be seen even without the use of persuasive tools such as political diplomacy or government statistics. Simply a trip to Melbourne during Grand Prix weekend and a small dose of rationality proves why the Victorian Government are seeking a contract extension.

As an F1 enthusiast residing in Australia, I have had the privilege of attending several Australian Grands Prix, including the most recent running of the event which incurred the fee currently in question. Considering I’m not a resident of the city of Melbourne, it would be safe to say that I assumed my role in providing an extra boost to the Victorian economy in mid-March. In fact, so did all the remaining 313,700 people who attended the GP in 2012.

A simple General Admission ticket to the event costs $150 AUD. A calculator and some simple mathematics will tell you that 313,700 times by $150 equals $47,055,000 AUD. Of course, those with concession cards only require $79 for their GA ticket, however, those situated in grandstands for the four days pay up to $500 for their 4 day passes. Furthermore, the prices stated are in fact “early bird” specials. Once we consider those who purchase late, grandstand or corporate tickets, it becomes likely that the event accumulates over $50 million in ticket sales alone.

While ticket sales are the most obvious and immediate return of the government’s investment, it is consequent expenditure as a result of the GP that provides an extra injection to the Victorian economy. Expenditure on accommodation, taxis, food and beverages; the list is expansive. This is without mentioning the sheer number of tourists visiting Melbourne for the event. Again, although I am unable to access official statistics on the matter, the firsthand experience around Albert Park speaks in volumes. Foreign tongues and exotic accents are littered all across Albert Park and also inner-city regions for that matter. A tram ride along St. Kilda Road to the track is reminiscent of a UN meeting with so many nationalities being represented in one place.

David Coulthard last year in Melbourne. (LAT Photo)

Unlike races at Silverstone, Monza or the Nürburgring, no single team and/or driver seems to display a significant home advantage at the Australian Grand Prix. So strong is the presence of die hard British McLaren fans, German Vettel fanatics and Italian Tifosi, it feels as if there is no genuine crowd favourite. The massive international vibe and audiences truly places Melbourne on display to the world. The exposure the GP brings is something incredibly important to the city and is essential if Melbournians wish to maintain their self-appointed title of ‘Sporting capital of the Southern Hemisphere.’

Recently, two time Australian Grand Prix winner David Coulthard spoke out against those anti-GP campaigners.

“I wonder how they'd feel if I came and stood outside whatever sporting event they follow and put forward my rights to say 'I don't like them doing that, it annoys me, it upsets my feng shui' or whatever it is.

If people want to be small-minded and not look beyond their personal needs, then that's disappointing."

It is simply that which can perfectly summarise those protesting against Melbourne hosting the Grand Prix; small-minded and selfish. Those in Adelaide (former host of the Australian Grand Prix) have always been considered to be smaller-minded than those in Melbourne, yet not a word was ever spoken against the event when hosted in Adelaide. It is sad that the minority of Melbournians seem to be gaining the headlines in recent years and embarrassing the event. Nonetheless, Victorian state premier, Ted Baillieu agrees that the event is an undeniable part of Melbourne’s future and will likely broker an extension with Bernie Ecclestone.

It seems that those with sensitive ears in South Melbourne, Albert Park and St. Kilda areas must continue to forgo their siestas for four days of the year.

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