Grand Prix SA’s big bid

2012-08-18 15:20

Can organisers bring government and Greenpoint residents on board?

Many people were over the moon when president and chief executive of Formula 1 Management and Administration, Bernie Ecclestone, introduced the idea of bringing back a GrandPrix race to South Africa.

Bjorn Buyst, operations officer for Cape Town Grand Prix SA, said they would be bidding for the Mother City to host the Formula 1 Grand Prix in 2014.

The last race that was staged in South Africa, at the Kyalami Race Track in Midrand, north of Johannesburg, was in 2005 and was won by legendary Nigel Mansell of Britain.

The new proposed street circuit, which includes Cape Town Stadium, is one of Cape Town GrandPrixSA’s ideas for the 2014 event, and it involves the use of the entry and exit points at street level as well as the stadium’s seating so fans can watch the race at close proximity.

Considering the exorbitant costs that go with staging a successful Formula 1 race, the challenge would be getting the national and provincial governments to buy into the idea.

Also, the proposed renovations to the stadium would mean a total halt to the Absa Premiership matches because major changes will need to be made to the 55 000-capacity stadium.

Ester Henderson, chief communications officer for Cape Town Grand Prix SA, said the biggest adjustment would be to lift the pitch and lay tar in line with the standard set by the International Automobile Federation, the world motor sport governing body.

After the race, which goes on for three days, the tar would then need to be removed to lay down the normal playing pitch again. The proposed renovations and upgrades will cost about R1 billion, which is far less than the R4 billion it would cost to build a new track from scratch.

Another challenge for the organisers would be to convince residents of Greenpoint and the surrounding areas that the epic noise of a Formula 1 car, and the smell of burning petrol and tyres, won’t harm nature and that emissions of greenhouse gases are being accounted for.

This will require adequate planning and proper public consultation to avoid another political squabble similar to the one prior to the building of Cape Town Stadium for the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

City of Cape Town’s mayoral council member for tourism, Grant Pascoe, maintains that hosting the Grand Prix event is in line with the city’s goal to establish it as the events capital of South Africa.

If successful, the race is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of fans from around the world and be seen by about 30 million TV viewers.

The city is expected to attract up to 300 000 people for the race weekend, with an estimated 80% of the audience coming from outside South Africa’s borders.

The property value of Greenpoint and the surrounding areas is also expected to shoot up because of the event and more affluent people would visit the city, which would in turn benefit local businesses.

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