The Melbourne spring carnival "could be set for a dramatic revamp as officials come to grips with the reality of the competitive sporting market and want to make racing relevant in the 21st century," according to Chris Roots of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. In its "most dramatic form there could have a swap between the weekends when the Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate are run, a change mooted for several years." There have been "preliminary discussions between officials 'over a beer' and many views have been sounded out." Spring racing "as a whole is on the agenda," as well as a review of all races across Victoria. Melbourne Racing Club CEO Brodie Arnhold is an "advocate for change but he would not be drawn to comment on the discussions." Arnhold said, "While we can't get rid of tradition, we have to challenge ourselves to make racing better. We need change in the industry and we are going to drive it at the MRC." The fact that 25% of races "fund the majority of programming in Victoria doesn't sit well with Arnhold, who has made his career in the financial industry." Arnhold, however, "understands racing and wants to get the balance right." Arnhold: "I have been an owner and a breeder for 20 years but I'm also a realist, and losing money on 75 percent of your races doesn't make sense for this industry" (SMH, 10/16).
Events and Attractions
Rugby World Cup organizers have stepped up their big push for the opening ceremony and double-header in Cardiff on Oct. 26, "and are increasingly confident of approaching or even beating the 41,271 crowd attracted to the first game of the successful 1995 tournament at Wembley," according to Andy Wilson of the London GUARDIAN. England will again kick off the tournament against Australia, this time followed by Wales's opening game against the World Cup debutants Italy, and ticket sales have remained some distance behind those for the other two major events -- the semifinals at Wembley, which will also be played as a double header on Nov. 23, and the final at Old Trafford the next Saturday, "which is almost guaranteed to be sold out." But they had already started to pick up considerably before advertising was stepped up after the Super League Grand Final, "and are now understood to have passed the 34,157 who watched the opening ceremony of the last World Cup in Sydney five years ago." The tournament's TV deal with the BBC has delivered an unexpected benefit as, in addition to the regular Saturday afternoon kickoffs favored by the terrestrial broadcaster -- but generally eschewed by Sky -- "the corporation has allowed organisers to incorporate a Strictly Come Dancing section in the opening ceremony, including the former Great Britain wing Martin Offiah" (GUARDIAN, 10/16). The London EVENING STANDARD reported specially-designed lighting, original music, and a dance extravaganza created by some of the U.K.'s leading choreographers, "will form part of the opening ceremony for the Rugby League World Cup." Organizers "have confirmed details of the hotly-anticipated ceremony" at the Millennium Stadium, which will involve more than 1,500 performers. Classical singer Camilla Kerslake will sing "God Save The Queen" ahead of England's clash with Australia. Music at the ceremony will also include performances from female classical-pop quartet Escala and Welsh "Queen of the Harps" Catrin Finch, "and a mass choir of a thousand voices" (EVENING STANDARD, 10/16). The BBC reported former players Offiah and Gareth Thomas "will be part of the Rugby League World Cup opening ceremony." As well as the Strictly Come Dancing-style show, Thomas will be dancing with 50 professional dancers and 500 dancers from local communities in Wales and southwest England as part of a £1M ($1.6M) project "part-funded by the Arts Council England and Arts Council Wales" (BBC, 10/16).
Former F1 Grand Prix venue Valencia "will not be penalised after dropping off the Formula 1 calendar," according to GRAND PRIX 247. Valencia race official Gonzalo Gobert earlier confirmed "the Spanish city, already absent from the 2013 and 2014 calendars, will definitively no longer host grands prix." On Friday, Valencian government VP Jose Ciscar said, "It appears there will be no Formula 1 in Valencia next year, and no penalty. If there is no race, there is no penalty" (GRAND PRIX 247, 10/12). In Madrid, Joaquín Ferrandis reported Valencian regional government President Alberto Fabra "left the door open to a future public-private cooperation when the economy improves" when asked if "the cancellation of the Grand Prix was permanent or temporary." Fabra "recognized that negotiations with F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone had been difficult because of a regulation demanding an expensive payment if the race was canceled." Regarding the race's potential return to Valencia, Fabra said, "If the circumstances are different, a private initiative is a possibility. A public-private collaboration is crucial in the future because the administration will not have money to do anything besides assuring the basic necessities" (EL PAIS, 10/16).
In a bid to make a "local showpiece as spectacular as the world-famous Sydney to Hobart Race," organizers of the Audi Hong Kong to Vietnam Race have moved the starting line from Lamma to Victoria so as to allow "people looking out of their windows" the chance to watch the "stunning sight of some of the best ocean racers in full sail on Thursday." Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club Sailing Manager Alex Johnston said, "We want to raise the profile of the event and decided a harbor start is far better than one off Lamma" (SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST, 10/16). ... After receiving a "sanctioning fee" of about $40,000 every year for the Chennai Open ATP Tour event for the last 17 years, "the All India Tennis Association will no longer be paid the sum by the Tamil Nadu Tennis Association which hosts the event." The state body, which has reached an agreement with IMG to keep the event in Chennai for the next three years, "has secured the requisite permission from the Government, bypassing the AITA" (THE HINDU, 10/16). ... So far "only 20,000 tickets have been bought" for the Oct. 25-27 F1 Indian Grand Prix. The organizers, however, "are confident that the turnout will be as much as it was last year," when 65,000 spectators watched the race at the 100,000-capacity Buddh Int'l Circuit. A total of 68,000 tickets "were put up for grabs in August" when the organizers launched the three-day and race day tickets together for the first time (IANS, 10/16). ... South Korea's "largest national multisport competition is set to kick off this weekend in Incheon," a city west of Seoul. Incheon hopes to "use this occasion as a test for a larger international competition it will host next year." From Saturday through Oct. 24, Incheon will host the 94th annual National Sports Festival (YONHAP, 10/16).