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Melbourne will host the Australian Grand Prix until at least 2015 after securing a new contract with Formula One Management in London overnight.
Premier John Brumby said the Grand Prix was the jewel in Melbourne's major events strategy. "Today's announcement confirms what every Melburnian knows - we live in the undisputed major events capital of the world," Mr Brumby said. "The Grand Prix has been an outstanding event for Victoria over a long period of time and has helped put Melbourne on a global stage. Retaining the event is important to Victoria's ongoing growth and prosperity. Our year round calendar of sporting and cultural events draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to our wonderful city every year."
In 2008, more than 300,000 people attended the four-day event and saw Lewis Hamilton win, the return of the V8 Supercars and a two-hour concert rock concert from KISS at the conclusion of the race.
The race will be held at 5pm next year and an agreement has been reached to not use any artificial lighting for the term of the contract.
Mr Brumby said the Grand Prix delivered value for money for Victoria, in terms of the event itself, the international exposure for Victoria and its capacity to act as a drawcard for other major events.
"The Grand Prix brings big spending tourists, creates employment and business opportunities and provides Victorians with another opportunity to enjoy world-class entertainment in their own capital city," Mr Brumby said. "The massive television exposure that Melbourne receives year in year out has helped build our world-wide reputation as a great place to visit and a great place to live. Next year's later start time will mean even greater TV audiences in the United Kingdom, Asia and European markets which means more exposure for brand "Melbourne" than ever before."
Tourism and Major Events Minister Tim Holding said securing the Grand Prix was great news for tourism operators across the State. "Hosting the Grand Prix in Melbourne provides significant economic and tourism benefits for the whole State," Mr Holding said. "Each year our hotels are booked out with tourists from across Australia and the world and our restaurants and cafés are overflowing. Importantly, many people who come to Melbourne for a major event also travel to regional Victoria to try our great food and wine, to see the Great Ocean Road or to bushwalk through Victoria's High Country."
President of Formula One Management, Mr Bernie Ecclestone, said he was delighted the Grand Prix was continuing in Melbourne. "The Australian Grand Prix has always been a great show, with some of the biggest crowds in Formula One," he said. "I have wanted changes to the local race time so that we can increase the television audience in Europe and Asia. I'm satisfied that the decision to move to later start time for 2009 races is a win for television audiences in Europe and Asia, a win for Melbourne and a win for Formula One as a whole."
Australian Grand Prix Corporation Chairman, Mr Ronald Walker AC CBE, congratulated the Victorian Government and Formula One Management on the contract extension. "Formula One is good for Melbourne and Melbourne is good for Formula One," Mr Walker said. "We're very pleased that's been recognised by everyone and I'm extremely grateful to Premier Brumby and Minister Holding for their involvement and to Mr Ecclestone for his support. The team at the Australian Grand Prix Corporation will get on with what it does best - putting on a world class show every March at Albert Park."
Melbourne's year round major sporting and cultural events calendar includes the Australian Open Tennis, Boxing Day Test, Spring Racing Carnival, AFL Grand Final, Melbourne Winter Masterpieces and a range of other events.
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