Uproar over Australian GP sponsor

THERE has been political uproar in Melbourne in recent days following the announcement that the 1996 Australian Grand Prix - to be held in Albert Park in March next year - is to be sponsored by Transurban, a road-building company which has just won a $1 billion deal to build a controversial new City Link road around Melbourne.

Government opposition say that the sponsorship deal makes no commercial sense and is unethical because it may have helped Transurban win the road-building contract. These charges have been denied by the Victorian state government, which says that the sponsorship deal was concluded between Transurban and the Australian Grand Prix Corporation only after the City Link deal was in place.

Transurban boss Guido Belgiorno-Nettis said the sponsorship came about because he wanted to improve the companies image because of adverse publicity surrounding tolls and the new roads, and closures of existing roads.

But despite all the opposition to the Albert Park race from rival politicians and protesters in Albert Park, the people of Melbourne seem to be keen to see the F1 cars in action. Tickets went on sale last week and the organizers took nearly $1million on the first day, with another $300,000 pouring in on Day Two.

Our sources say that the opposition to the race is no longer really about the use of Albert Park for racing but rather because of the local government's insistence on steam-rollering through the race, overriding normal democratic processes and thus infringes on their liberty.

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