Montreal’s Grand Prix: a Race to the Middle?
By: Dan Laxer – mtltimes.ca
It’s Grand Prix Weekend in Montreal, and not a moment too soon. Boy, we sure could use the money, what with all the dough the Mayor’s going to need to light up the Jacques Cartier Bridge and plant granite trees for our anniversary.
On the other hand, if recent news is to be believed, it may not be about the money after all.
It all comes down to the imagery: Old Montreal and the Old Port crawling with American tourists in red Ferraris, paunched men in t-shirts with tall, leggy girlfriends in stilettos and micro-minis; crowded bars and restaurants in Montreal’s downtown core overflowing with F1 fans snatching up Cuban cigars by the humidorful; and money, lots of it, flowing like the Mighty Saint Lawrence, pumping – what was the last estimation? – $80Million of badly-needed revenue into a city that seems so dependent on the Grand Prix, that buzzing, fume-spewing event that leaves a dark, emissions-rich cloud hanging at least over Ile Notre Dame, if not the entire city.
Someone’s math must be off. Because the latest news is that the Grand Prix doesn’t bring in nearly as much money as we’d thought. But that can’t possibly be right.
And even if it is, nobody really cares… do they?
I don’t know anything about F1 racing, nor do I care very much about it. But it’s just about all we got. At least as far as a sports event is concerned. We have no baseball team (stop talking to me about the Expos, already; they’re gone and they’re not coming back). We have no real hockey team (do I really need to remind you how long it’s been since “we” brought home the Stanley Cup?). Are football and soccer enough to fill the sports void throughout the summer? We need the Grand Prix as much as the Grand Prix needs us, apparently. Remember Bernie Ecclestone’s little traipse into Turkey? Did he come crawling back to us, or did we beg him to come back?
Victoria Day weekend is the official kick-off to barbecue season. The Tour de l’Ile kicks off the summertime complaining season. Then comes the Grand Prix – which tells the world that Montreal is officially open for business – along with the, fringe, jazz, and comedy festivals, the Francopholies, the fireworks festival, and various local street parties. Montrealers love their summertime. We just want to get out there and do stuff, and we aren’t too concerned about the cost to taxpayers. Because when we say “taxpayers,” it’s almost as if we’re talking about someone else.
But the latest figures – and let’s face it, figures can be wrong… as apparently they’d been all along – show that we’re probably making about half of what we’d originally thought. Which means we’re paying too much for the Grand Prix, and not making nearly enough from it.
We can’t tell Bernie Ecclestone to go F1 himself; we’re tied into this thing for just under a decade. So somebody with an abacus needs to figure out how to make more money off of Grand Prix Weekend. Otherwise what’s the point?