Monday, March 15, 2010

Singapore Formula One

The 2010 Formula One season is the 61st, and the first race started on March 14 in Bahrain. Yet the full accounting for the cost of hosting the 2009 Singapore night race is still undisclosed. Years ago, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew once told a CitiBank dinner function that he was stupid not to understand that money could be made by watching cars driving round and round in a circuit. Maybe he was right after all.

Accordiing to TIME magazine, the first Singapore Night Race in 2008 took in US$51 million, but cost US$100 million to run, according to figures from Formula Money. The Singapore government kicked in $60 million, netting a nice profit for the promoter, Bernie Ecclestone, and his Singapore pal and property tycoon Ong Beng Seng. Ecclestone is the one who was quoted giving qualified praise for Adolf Hitler, saying that the German leader "could command a lot of people" and was "able to get things done", attributes similarly shared by Lee Kuan Yew. Commercially, Singapore was supposed to benefit from the "spin-offs" from the racing event, but the retail outlets at the Marina area were devastated by the road blocks put in place for the circuit. If the debut night race was not the financial success trumpeted by the organisers, 2009 can only do worse. 2009 was forgettable for another reason, Renault's Nelson Piquet crashed his car deliberately, hitting the wall on Lap 14, and made world news as the Singapore Grand Prix conspiracy.

The Singapore government views the television coverage as a giant commmercial for the city, a $60 million billboard. But BBC already put the city on the world map when their reporter asked of Lee Hsien Loong, “Finally, Prime Minister, I read that you are apparently the highest paid head of government in the world. Your salary is about four or five times what President Obama gets. Are you worth all that money?” Equally forgettable was Lee's response, "...And you cannot do that (run the government) if you are pretending and you just say, ‘Well, we are all in it for the love of King and Country’. "

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