AUGUST 4, 2004
Rio to host Brazilian Grand Prix in 2006?
The word on the street in Brazil is that Rio de Janeiro will host the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2006. The Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo has been the venue of the Brazilian Grand Prix since 1990 but prior to that the race was held for nine years at the Jacarepagua track, outside Rio de Janeiro.
There has been vague talk of a switch back to Rio for many years since the death of Paulista driver Ayrton Senna, but in recent years the Rio authorities have been more interested in bidding for the 2012 Olympic Games. In May that dream was destroyed when the International Olympic Committee ruled that Rio was no longer one of the candidate cities, citing crime and poor transportation as the major reasons for the rejection. The city is now hoping for a successful bid in 2016 but is still pushing ahead with its preparations for the 2007 Pan-American Games, which was to have been a prelude to the Olympics. Just a few days after the IOC decision in May the mayor of Rio de Janeiro Cesar Maia approved a plan to build a National Aquatic Center, a velodrome and the Rio Olympic Arena on the Autodromo Jacarepagua-Nelson Piquet. The city, which continues to own and manage the circuit, has since asked for bids for the construction work, which must be finished in time for the Pan American Games but which must allow the venue to maintain "its main and essential function of car and motorcycle racing".
The initial aim is for the Olympic Arena to host the Women's Basketball World Championship in 2006 and we hear that the locals now want there to be a Brazilian Grand Prix on the track at the end of 2006 as well.
In the last few days the Brazilian ministry of Sport, the prefecture and the mayor's office have all agreed to promote events in preparation for the Pan American Games in 2007. The federal government is already paying $115m for the construction of an Olympic Stadium, in the northern suburbs of the city, and for the Pan American Games Village at the Barra da Tijuca, close to the autodromo. The construction work at the autodromo will be funded by the city, which is committed to spending $100m on construction and restoration work for the Pan American Games.
The additional cost of fees to the Formula One group for the race could be paid by the local authorities but in Sao Paulo that was being funded by the television station TV Globo. The city of Sao Paulo had only been paying for the upkeep of the Interlagos circuit and even then there was a legal challenge at the end of last year because some local pressure groups insisted that public money was being wasted. Interlagos is an expensive venue because the circuit was built on unstable ground and so subsidence is a big problem each year.
A switch to a much-modified circuit in Rio de Janeiro thus makes a great deal of sense and add credence to the rumours that a deal is already done.
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