F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone "has offered to sign a contract 10 times longer than usual to keep" the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne's Albert Park, according to Peter Rolfe of the HERALD SUN. Ecclestone said, "We hope we're going to be in Melbourne forever, although we do get a bit of criticism and I don't know why. We're happy with Melbourne, and I'd be happy to sign a 50-year contract." The Grand Prix Corp. said Ecclestone's wish to have the race at Albert Park for another 50 years was a "wonderful sentiment," but it didn't mean Melbourne could take it for granted. With the Australian Grand Prix contract to expire in '15, Ecclestone said that "he intended to travel to Melbourne for the first time in eight years to kick-start negotiations before next month's race." But, in an apparent snub of the State Government, he said that "he would talk only" to Grand Prix Chair Ron Walker. Ecclestone said, "The only person I deal with is Ron Walker." In an exclusive interview, Ecclestone also revealed that "other states had contacted him trying to snatch the race from Victoria when the current contract expired." But he said that he was "determined to keep the event in Melbourne" (HERALD SUN, 2/26). AUTOSPORT's Sam Tremayne Ecclestone also "played down the significance of growing complaints about the cost of the race" after an Australian newspaper revealed the hosting fee was more than £20M ($30.3M) per year. Asked what the fee secured, Ecclestone said: "To get a Formula 1 event, the same as anyone else in the world. Melbourne probably doesn't need to be put on the map, but that's what Formula 1 does for a city: it gets an awful lot more worldwide television coverage than other events Melbourne has." He added: "Whenever these sorts of things happen, I'm told don't be silly about that, it's just one or two people making noise" (AUTOSPORT, 2/26).
Events and Attractions
The annual UEFA Champions Festival will take place in London on May 23-26. The free four-day football celebration, featuring a series of family-friendly activities, will be the first major event to come to the home of the 2012 London Olympics since last summer, taking place on The Int'l Quarter close to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Festival ambassadors, including former England players Faye White and Steve McManaman, will be on hand to meet and greet the fans. The festival will open on May 23 running through to May 26 following the UEFA Champions League final at Wembley Stadium on May 25. The festival will include the Ultimate Champions Match which will feature a number of UEFA Champions League greats of years gone by (UEFA).
Australian high-performance chief Pat Howard and the team's head of security have traveled to the site of the second Test, Hyderabad, "for meetings on player safety following bombings that killed 12 people there last week." The second Test venue "was thrown into doubt" last Thursday after two bombs were exploded near bus stands about 10km from the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium. Indian media reported that security for the Test "would be increased significantly" (THE AGE, 2/27). ... The Indian sports ministry overruled the Sports Authority of India's decision not to clear the Indian men's field hockey team's trip to the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup with a "stern warning" to Hockey India not to overshoot its budget in the future. The sports ministry's decision came minutes after HI withdrew the team after the SAI "refused to pick the airfare tab for the tournament" to be held in Ipoh, Malaysia March 9-17 (IANS, 2/26).