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What a feast of sport the people in Melbourne will have from Jan with the Australian Tennis Open and then the CGames, Formula 1 and AFL season start.
Grand Prix clash with AFL launch
By Mark Fogarty
May 4, 2005


The Commonwealth Games and the Australian Grand Prix will run almost back to back next March - and the motor race will clash with the start of the AFL season.

In a bunching of the sporting calendar, the Grand Prix has been scheduled to run from March 30 to April 2, meaning it will start just four days after the Games' closing ceremony. An AFL spokesman confirmed last night that the first round of the 2006 season would be held on the last weekend of March.

The Grand Prix's new timing - necessary to avoid interrupting the build-up to the Games - has been agreed by formula one rights owner Bernie Ecclestone and Ron Walker, the chairman of both the Games and the Grand Prix.

The Albert Park lakeside circuit will be set up as usual in January and February before being "mothballed" until after the Games.

The one-off change of dates for the race, which will return to its early-March slot in 2007, is subject to ratification by motor sport's world governing body, the Paris-based Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA).
It still has to be approved by the World Council," Mr Walker said. "So there's still a long way to go yet."

While the deal is not a formality, the FIA is almost certain to approve it because Mr Ecclestone is unlikely to be overruled.

"It's a good deal," said Mr Walker. "It's four days after the finish of the Commonwealth Games, but it's the only date Bernie and I have been able to work out.

"The (soccer) World Cup in July is causing havoc with the F1 calendar. It's a nightmare."

It was originally expected that the Grand Prix would be shifted to late April to avoid any conflict with the Commonwealth Games. But Mr Walker said better weather was likely in late March and visitors here for the Games may be more tempted to stay on.

"It's the best result," he said. "The end of April would've been after daylight saving, it's colder and there'd be the risk of rain.

"It's also good for tourism. You'll have 12 days of the Commonwealth Games and then four days of the Grand Prix."

Mr Walker revealed that running the Grand Prix meeting immediately after the Games, which will run from March 15 to 26, would require setting up the 5.3 kilometre Albert Park street circuit weeks ahead of time.

"It means we'll have to have all the circuit construction done before the Commonwealth Games and then mothballed until the Games are over," he said. "It's a major logistical undertaking."

Preparing Albert Park for the Grand Prix involves 60,000 tonnes of equipment, including trackside safety barriers and temporary grandstands.

Having the track sitting idle is likely to raise concerns about disrupting access to Albert Park during the Games, when Melbourne is supposed to be on show to visitors.

Rescheduling the Australian Grand Prix nearly a month later than normal means the race will lose its position as the opening round, which it has held since it moved to Melbourne from Adelaide in 1996.

Melbourne's season-starting place in next year's series is likely to be taken over by Bahrain in early March, followed two weeks later by the Malaysian GP and then Albert Park before the series moves to Europe. Mr Walker was confident the race would be restored to its coveted "pole position" in 2007.

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Watch my Chops
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Maroon Grown said:
whoopdeefrigindoo. sport hogs!
That's what we want to see. :)
 
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