- Title: AUSTRALIA: MOTOR RACING: Melbourne prepares for the Australian Grand Prix
- Date: 12th March 2008
- Summary: WIDE OF QUEEN VICTORIA MARKET
- Embargoed: 27th March 2008 12:00
- Location: Australia
- Country: Australia
- Topics: Sports
- Reuters ID: LVA7M0AMQ73RECNAFCVIZ5LL84LG
- Story Text: As the Formula One Grand Prix season gets under way in Melbourne next week, rumours are flying that the city could lose the race to up-and-coming countries willing to pay more to host the annual event.
The sport is expanding rapidly and has dropped classic destinations on the tour, including San Marino and the United States.
On Sunday (March 9) Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone said in a newspaper interview the race must become a night event to hit European TV schedules or lose its place on the calendar. But a week before the season opener in Melbourne next Sunday (March 16), Ecclestone said that the switch looked unlikely and the race appeared doomed.
Despite the doubts the Australian Grand Prix Corporation is confident that the city will continue to stage the race.
Ecclestone has warned the organisers that the future of the race could be dependent on running it at night to hit the prime-time European TV audience.
"We think the Australian Grand Prix is a key platform of Victoria's major event policy and we think that the Australian Grand Prix does an fantastic job in showcasing, profiling, and providing international exposure to Melbourne and really putting Melbourne on the world stage", said Drew Ward, CEO of the corporation.
"Ticket sales have been very strong and we're hoping that those people who come along to the event have a great experience and we'll use that as a platform to continue to develop and enhance the event for future years" he said.
But his confidence is not shared by all Melbournians.
The CEO of popular tourist attraction the Queen Victoria Market, Jim Monaghan, said: "One thing that's amazing is that the Grand Prix brings absolutely no tourists to the market and therefore if the Grand Prix's not on we don't think it will make any difference to us".
To add fuel to the debate, when the current contactin 2010 Victorian taxpayers will have to spend $35 million each year to continue to host the event.
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