Few thought a V8 Supercars Sydney Olympic Park would ever eventuate, yet the punishing street circuit around the site of the 2000 Olympics has become a fixture as the season finale on the V8 Supercars schedule since 2009.
Seven years into the event, though, it seems V8 Supercars is ready to walk away from Sydney Olympic Park after a failed bid to rework and shorten the circuit in a bid to revitalise the event and save money.
As a result, reports have emerged that V8 Supercars is in talks with the New South Wales government to back a street race in Gosford on the Central Coast, as a potential replacement for Sydney Olympic Park in 2017.
V8 Supercars reportedly loses $4 million a year on the Sydney Olympic Park event, not helped by dwindling crowds year on year. While other street-circuit events in Adelaide, Townsville and Gold Coast have been able sustain a certain level of crowd numbers, Sydney has gone backwards at a noticeable rate.
The decreased interest in Sydney is puzzling. Sure, the event has done away with the post-race concerts that are a regular fixture at the other street circuits and the exhibitions in the pavilions have diminished since the inaugural event.
But Sydney Olympic Park has adequate public transport, free to use for those with a ticket to the event. It has clean air away from other major sporting events, away from the NRL, AFL and Big Bash League. It has the prestige of being the championship-deciding event.
It is a punishing street circuit that always produces drama and is a family-friendly event with so many non-racing attractions throughout the precinct.
So it makes no sense that the crowds have fallen away so dramatically, in total contrast to other street-circuit events, until you factor in Sydney’s notorious fickleness when it comes to sporting events.
Sydney’s fickle sporting crowds are often blamed on poor public transport options to their stadia spread across the often hard to navigate city, a high cost of living compared to other cities and the lack of a strong membership culture relative to the likes of Victoria. Though these factors don’t directly correlate with the Sydney Olympic Park V8 Supercars event, they might help explain a Sydneysiders’ mentality when it comes to not attending sporting events.
Combined with the high cost of staging the event and the difficulty V8 Supercars has had in negotiating to a shorter more cost effective layout with the Sydney Olympic Park Authority, it appears the event is doomed. Given the lack of support from the masses, Sydneysiders will only have themselves to blame.
Gosford, like Townsville, will no doubt support the event – a regional centre with little else in the way of major events. Sydney’s loss will be Gosford’s gain. And any talk of Sydney replacing Melbourne as the host of the Australian Grand Prix should end with the lesson of Sydney Olympic Park’s V8 Supercars event.