Formula One, schmormula one

While I was waiting for my hair to dry so that I can go to sleep, I came across this zinger of a response by Ovidia Yu to today's Straits Times article "Pride in F1 race missing". I didn't read the original article and there isn't a registration-free online version, but I'm guessing the news editor who wrote it feels that the ordinary Singaporean just doesn't give enough of a damn that the world's! first! Formula One night race! is being hosted here this weekend.

Yu had me with her first two paragraphs:
People I meet in & out of the city are polite to show ‘disinterest’ in the upcoming F1. In less guarded/more candid moments the response is more likely disgust/disapproval/ridicule.

Plus I doubt the F1 ‘fever’ you feel in town is for the F1–most people are more interested in working out road closure times & boundaries.
Amen, sister! Read her full letter, "F1 Singapore".

The taxi driver I was chatting with yesterday summed up the situation thus (in Mandarin): "All this Formula One, the government organises it to make the big companies, the government make money. What difference does it make to the rest of us?"



At 9/26/2008 12:52 am , Blogger sternstadt said...

Here ya go:

Sep 25, 2008
Pride in F1 race missing
Come on, folks, let's grab the chance to make the city a race icon
By Carl Skadian

SAY, have you felt it yet?
No, really. Stop whatever you are doing, and think about it for a minute.

Something big this way comes, and soon.

So you should be tingling with excitement.

No? Thought so.

It's strange, really. The biggest event to be staged in Singapore for a long time - possibly ever (and yes, that includes the International Monetary Fund-World Bank meetings) - is about to take place, but not many seem to be really, truly, madly, excited.

Going by the scuttlebutt floating around, here is what many Singaporeans think: This whole F1 deal is for tourists.

Lots of folks will come here and spend wads of cash; hotels and restaurants will jack up prices and see business go through the roof; and, come next Monday morning, most of the visitors will be gone.

Meanwhile, the lot of us will have...road closures, and a continuing hangover from the Lehman Brothers/ AIG/(insert bank name here) fallout.

A recent Sunday Times story revealed that while most Singaporeans know that an F1 race is going to be held here, many thought the event would take place next year.

If that doesn't spell 'disinterest', I don't know what does.

While taking a gander at our neighbourhoods two weekends ago, I was disappointed at the lack of excitement at malls and coffeeshops.

There is a stark contrast. Go anywhere in the city, and F1 fever is palpable. But the further you get from downtown, the more the ardour cools.

At Bedok South coffee shops, while the Italian Grand Prix at Monza was careening to an improbable conclusion, TVs were tuned to the Stoke City vs Everton English Premier League game.

Downtown, more people (read: foreigners) seemed glued to the F1 race, probably because it was the one just before Singapore.

No disrespect to Everton fans, but oh, my! Stoke vs Everton!

Many others are worried about how they are going to get to work, where they will shop this weekend, anything but the race.

I am not sure why. Perhaps it is the way all this has been touted. Week after week, all we keep hearing about are tourists, tourism receipts, fancy watch shows, fancier boats...Frankly, it can seem to some as if Singapore is throwing a giant party.

Only thing is, someone forgot to invite the Singaporeans.

Then again, you could blame Singaporeans too, for being less than enthusiastic hosts.

Singapore has been accused from time to time of having perfect hardware, but lacking a little something in the heartware department, and this whole F1 thing is a case in point.

We are so focused on the talk about tourists that we are forgetting that other thing the race brings: An intangible benefit for Singapore.

In my book, there are only two iconic F1 races: The Monaco and Belgian Grands Prix.

The former is well-known. I bet that even people who don't know how many wheels an F1 car has have heard of the race, of the tiny principality's reputation for glitz and glamour, and the fact that Monaco might as well be spelled M-o-n-e-y.

Belgium has a little less fanfare, but motorsport fans the world over have come to revere its Spa-Francorchamps circuit as a racing purist's dream: It has Eau Rouge, the white-knuckle kink in a sweeping curve which grows hair on a man's chest and reduces boys to simpering, braking sods - the finest stretch of road in all of Formula One.

Both are known for differing reasons, but there is one common one: They stand head and shoulders above the other locations, which mainly have faceless purpose-built circuits. Valencia has a street circuit too, but the jury is still out on it, following grumbles that it hosts less of a race and more of a procession.

Come Sept 28, Singapore has a chance to add its name to this very short list of F1 icons.

By some accounts, about 50 million people tune in to each F1 race. For about 11/2 hours on Sunday night, they will watch 20 cars zip around some of the finest real estate in Singapore, lit at night to dramatic effect.

If you have doubts about how all this will play out, go to http://www.redbullracing.com/4th-Sector/Webber-Singapore for a simulation.

Put it this way: If you don't feel a surge of pride at the sight of the world's finest machines zipping past landmarks all of us are intimately familiar with - City Hall, Anderson Bridge, the Esplanade - you ought to check yourself for a pulse.

That aspect of what will take place this weekend has not been tapped into much, but I wish it had been.

More than anything else, having the race in Singapore should be a source of pride. We are putting this island's can-do spirit, top-notch lifestyle and downtown beauty up for show - to 50 million people. It is not so much putting yourself on the map as it is announcing your arrival with a clap of thunder.

There is so much more than just having the world watch you on TV, though.

In the 80 or so years that F1 racing has existed in some way, shape or form, there has never been a night race, so this is history in the making, for instance.

In terms of size, F1 is huge too. Some say it finishes a strong third in popularity behind only soccer's World Cup and the Olympics. I am not so sure - give me Liverpool vs Man U any day.

But there is no doubt that F1 is huge.

There is also a cracking race on the cards, with the championship poised on knife edge.

To a motorsport fan, and there are many here, judging by the ridiculous stickers and shiny blue lights that drivers here affix to their Toyota Corollas and Suzuki Swifts, that is enough to raise a glass of Tiger beer to.

Global spotlight, super sporting action, big names like Ferrari...there is little more Singaporeans could ask for.

That is why I say it is a shame more has not been done to rouse our interest in what is going to be happening this weekend, perhaps by hosting heartland carnivals and the like.

The payoff could have been a swell of pride that is priceless. Come Sunday night, 50 million folks will see us say - and I am stealing a line from a civic song here, but what the heck - We Are Singapore.

It's not National Day, but it doesn't come much bigger than this.

[email protected]

At 9/26/2008 5:35 am , Blogger budak said...

aiyah, ol' carl can replace F1 with Earth Day, IMF meeting etc and make the same complaints la....


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