F1 will see Singapore host world’s business bigwigs

The inaugural Formula One Grand Prix in Singapore will give the island’s economy a significant boost.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is convinced the first night race on a downtown street circuit is where multi-billion-dollar business deals will be sealed from September.

Apart from an estimated 40,000 tourists visiting the island during the race, the 77-year-old told TODAY in an exclusive interview from London that Singapore will play host to some of the world’s most influential captains of industry from team sponsors like ING, HP and Allianz.

“Everyone is excited about going there (Singapore); all the companies,” he said.

“Among the sponsors alone, whom the teams will invite, there will be 3,000 to 4,000 key sponsors and, for sure, their top people there,” he said.

“Oh, I think it will do people good. People are going somewhere they wouldn’t normally go, perhaps see things they would not normally see and become interested. It will be good for Singapore; you will get big exposure,” he added.

Mr Ecclestone also noted that with Asia and Australia set to host seven races by 2010 (once South Korea and perhaps India get on the calendar), Singapore and the region stand to benefit from the kind of F1-centric £3-billion ($8.3-billion) motorsports industry enjoyed by the United Kingdom.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see that happen, within two or three years, for sure. You need a bit of time for that to happen,” he said.

Singapore has been on his F1 radar screen since 1990, two years after he took control of the sport that was near begging, turning it into a US$4-billion ($5.7-billion) business. That was the year he first gave his old friend, hotel and property tycoon Ong Beng Seng, the rights to host F1 in Singapore.

But the Government turned down a proposal to build a permanent racetrack, so in the late 1990s he took his idea elsewhere in Asia, adding Malaysia to the F1 calendar in 1999 and China five years later.

As more countries queued for the F1 starting grid, Singapore’s interest was aroused once again, signalling it was keen on another bite of the F1 pie.

In May last year, Mr Ecclestone obliged, giving Mr Ong the green light to host a night race here — a global first.

The reason for the change of heart? “I am very bullish about the East,” said Mr Ecclestone. “It has been so for more than 15 years (since talking to Ong), and hopefully I have been proven right because they have come on in that part of the world and now they are very strong … and Singapore is obviously in that region.”

And Mr Ecclestone is confident that Singapore will eventually become a jewel in the F1 crown. – TODAY/so

Source : Today – 18 Feb 2008

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