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Meanwhile, down under

NEWS STORY
27/02/2008

As Bernie Ecclestone continues to suggest that more governments should follow the eastern example and subsidise their country's round of the Formula One World Championship, an interesting little story has emerged in Australia, whose race is one of those under threat.

Organizers of the Grand Prix in Melbourne have denied reports that they are not aware exactly how many people attend the event each year, following claims that the 'official' figures released are usually based on estimates which includes freebie, promotional, corporate and giveaway tickets in the head count, regardless of whether the ticket is actually used or not.

One Australian GP regular, well known to Pitpass, said "from my Friday observations of 2007, I reckon there'd have been lucky to be 30,000 people there if you subtracted the plethora of uniformed tikes on their freebie "school excursions".

This claim fits in with figures issued by the "Save Albert Park" campaign, which, unlike the organizers, actually counts the number of people attending the event.

When the story originally broke on Tuesday morning, those people already questioning the value of the event appeared to have the upper hand, however, by late afternoon the Spinwallahs had clearly got to work.

Asked by ABC News for official confirmation of the stats and how the estimated figure is calculated, Grand Prix Corporation chief executive Drew Ward said he could not reveal such information, claiming that the precise figure needs to remain confidential for commercial reasons.

"This information, if it is provided in the public domain, could be used by our competitors," he said, "by cities that are bidding against Melbourne to host a Formula One Grand Prix. And we would obviously therefore suffer commercial disadvantage."

Ward added that at a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal last year it was agreed that the information was commercially sensitive.

"The key point here is that the judge was provided with all of that background detail, all of that information, all of that methodology, and she examined it in considerable detail, and she ruled in favour of the Grand Prix that it was in the public interest that that information be withheld," said Ward.

Which, when fed into the ACME Political B.S. Translator, beloved of politicians everywhere, comes out roughly as: "OK, we don't count, we do falsify up a bit but a judge, ruling on a commercial matter, says we don't have to tell you anything, and you can shove that up your arse."

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