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Friday Sep 28, 2012

Backers willing to invest R1bn in Cape Town Grand Prix

The bid team looking to bring a Grand Prix to Cape Town's streets say they have the backers willing to invest the R1 billion needed to host the event, but cannot move ahead unless they get the national government's official seal of approval.

An artist's impression of the proposed Cape Town Grand Prix.

Cape Town Grand Prix SA is hoping to meet Sports and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula as soon as possible as the investors have indicated that their involvement depends on the government giving the green light.

The Department of Sports and Recreation said it would welcome a meeting with the bid team, adding that it would support an event guaranteed to bring foreign investment to the country.

About R1bn will be needed to stage the street race in the city.

Cape Town Grand Prix SA is aiming to host its first race by 2014 with the plan of making it an annual fixture on the international racing calendar.

One of the ideas for the event is that the track would pass through the Cape Town Stadium. This plan would see the pitch being temporary lifted and tar laid down.

Ester Henderson, communications chief officer for Cape Town Grand Prix SA, said the organisation was still trying to secure a meeting with Mbalula.

Henderson said it understood Mbalula's schedule would have been packed due to the recent Paralympics and Olympics Games.

"From what we know, the minister's office is not averse to meeting with us. We do understand he has been very busy with international events. And we are still pursuing that meeting."

She said several international investors wanted to back the event. But the event would first need the endorsement from the national government before this would go ahead.

Justin de Allende, special adviser in the sports ministry, said the department was willing to meet the Cape Town Grand Prix SA team.

"Any event planned for South Africa which would develop sport and boost tourism and foreign investment would be welcomed," said De Allende.

While the city in principle supports the idea, it said funding would be a critical factor.

Grant Pascoe, mayoral committee member for tourism, events and marketing, agreed the event would increase tourism numbers, but added there was a "huge cost attached".

Pascoe said according to a presentation from the Cape Town Grand Prix SA, the team would be raising all the funding.

"There will be need to be big infrastructural changes, huge engineering changes. We need to weigh up the costs of hosting the grand prix."

He also pointed to some countries questioning the costs of hosting a F1 race.

In Australia, the national government revealed it cost taxpayers more than R400 million to host the event this year.

Cape Argus

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