Race on to move GP in timeMelbourne's formula one Grand Prix will be moved from its usual early March date in 2006 to avoid a clash with the Commonwealth Games.
"We are a victim of our own success in scooping some of the world's greatest events," Commonwealth Games and Australian Grand Prix powerbroker Ron Walker said last night.
If the race date was not moved, organisers could not get all the formula one equipment in and out of Albert Park and restore the park in time for the Games, Mr Walker said.
"We have to cart 40,000 tonnes of equipment into the park and then bring it out and then clean the park up," he said.
Mr Walker said it was crucial that Melbourne looked its best in world television coverage of the two sports events.
As well as hosting the Grand Prix in 2006, Albert Park will be a key venue for the Games, to be held from March 15 to 26. The sports and aquatic centre in Albert Park, which is about to get a $50 million upgrade, will host events including swimming, diving and squash.
The decision on the Grand Prix date is one for F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, but Mr Walker said Mr Ecclestone was very sympathetic to Melbourne's scheduling predicament.
Mr Walker sits in a uniquely influential position regarding the two events. He is chairman of both the Australian Grand Prix Corporation and Melbourne 2006, the key Games organising authority.
The Bracks Government has been lobbying for the race date to be moved, amid concerns that a clash with the Games would hurt ticket sales and corporate sponsorship. It has also been anxious to ensure adequate time for preparatory works.
Commonwealth Games Minister Justin Madden said the Government's aim was to ensure that neither event hurt the other.
Mr Madden said preparatory works for the Games would be extensive, and so would put pressure on Grand Prix scheduling. Works at Albert Park - including erection of temporary barriers and temporary amenities for Games volunteers and athletes - would need to be under way about one month before the Games, he said.
By Darren Gray
January 15, 2004
Grand Prix Corporation
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