On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Critics going off track on F1 race

The former academician would  have probably forgotten what he  advocated. His intentions, although sincere,
was short-sighted.

And that, of course, separates  those who
make things happen and  those who merely

Twenty years later, TV sets are  so cheap
that they are a common  sight at squatter

Even Subang Airport was criticised as a prestigious project when  it was built. Today, as we all know,  it is not big enough to handle the  growing demand for air transport.

As it would be foolish to spend  millions
to upgrade an old airport,  the KL
International Airport was  built  again drawing the usual  loud complaints.

In 1969, when the Gerakan-led  state
government pledged to build  the Penang
Bridge, one former  DAP leader laughed at
the project.

He told his audience at a rally  that he
would jump off the bridge  if it was
built. He has never done  so but he has
“jumped'' political  parties at least

Motorists who use the Penang  Bridge
today will tell you that it is  not wide
enough. During this Chinese New Year period, an accident  reduced traffic flow on the bridge  to a crawl.

The usual criticisms arose when  the
Sepang Formula One circuit  was built.
One opposition leader  said it was a
waste of money while  a PAS MP claimed it
was to promote vice.

Their unhappiness was the cost  of the
project but they overlooked  the
spill-over effects to the economy, preferring to pick on trivial issues.

The findings of a three-month  economic
impact study, conducted  by Universiti
Malaya, could perhaps shed some light on the positive aspects of the F1.

Over 65% of the spectators were  visitors
to Malaysia, mostly from  Europe,
Australia and Singapore.  They reportedly
took up 64% of  the grandstand tickets
and 33% of  the hillstand and uncovered
grandstand tickets.

More than 74% of the specatators came for the sole purpose of  attending the event while 15%  were on holiday and 8% on business.

Significantly, 71% of the foreign 
spectators said they would come 
back for the next F1 race in Malaysia.

Over 73% of those interviewed  stayed in
four or five-star hotels  for an average
of eight nights.

Of the 83% who travelled by air,  54%
flew with Malaysia Airlines.  The average
total spending for the  visitors was
RM6,730 while locals  spent an average of

The figures are certainly impressive. We should also not forget  that the event attracted over 600  million TV viewers via 750 stations  in over 260 countries. Malaysia deserves to
be on the TV screen  worldwide for more
than just its  street

In September, Malaysia will host  the
last leg of the F1 races. It will  be a
major event for that reason  alone.

The number of viewers and visitors is likely to double; fans would  want to be here to catch the final  lap and celebrate with the champion.

Perhaps the organisers should  consider
inviting politicians who  criticise the
race. They would then  be able to see for
themselves the  positive impact of

The PAS-led governments in Kelantan and Terengganu may want  to take into account that many of  the F1 visitors travelled to the east  coast for their side holidays besides
enjoying Pangkor, Penang  and

Instead of running down the F1,  PAS
leaders should be more proactive by competing with other  states to promote tourism in their  states.

They have over eight months to 
aggressively woo F1 fans to spend 
their money in Kelantan and Terengganu and, subsequently, enable  locals to earn tourist dollar.

Let it be a win-win situation instead of wasting much energy walloping the F1
at meaningless ceramahs.

For our F1 organisers, they  should consider
hosting concerts  involving local and
foreign singers  in the run-up to F1
races to take  advantage of the presence
of tourists.

Cultural events could also be  held on
the eve of the race to take  advantage of
the presence of the  huge number of foreign

About a month ago, one newspaper from a neighbouring country  ran a front-page report about Malaysia
promoting sports tourism.  The paper said
Malaysia had put  much thought and
planning to host  major golf and motoring
events,  attracting global

The F1 circuit, it noted, was a  former
palm oil plantation, while  the Gold
World Cup was held at a  disused tin

The newspaper reported that in  a global
competition, time should  not be wasted
as competition was  intense. That,
perhaps, should set  us thinking. There's
a great deal of  good things going on in

We only have to get our act together and put our priorities right.  It's the only way if we want to be a  world-class player.