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DATE News (chronologically)
11/24/08
f1
Few lament loss of F1 race in Montreal
Will Montreal recover from the loss of the Formula One Grand Prix? Montreal certainly will, but some pub and bar owners will not. They say that the June weekend of the Grand Prix, when huge crowds of hard-drinking revellers descended on the city's downtown, represented 15 to 20 per cent of their yearly gross income.

"We'll have to return our bottles of Cristal champagne at $500 each and replace them with beer cases," lamented Ziggy Eichenbaum, owner of the popular Ziggy's Pub on Crescent Street. (The unassuming pub, a couple of steps down from sidewalk level, was Mordecai Richler's favorite haunt.)

Some say the Grand Prix brought up to $100-million a year to the city's coffers - a figure that has never been substantiated but was liberally used by various lobbies that wanted the federal, provincial and city governments to give in to the outrageous demands of Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone.

Mr. Ecclestone insisted on annual fees of $31-million that would rise to $38-million by 2013, plus a government guarantee. Quebec Economic Development Minister Raymond Bachand, former federal minister Michael Fortier and Montreal mayor GĂ©rald Tremblay worked hard to negotiate a better deal, but the talks broke down last week. Istanbul has replaced Montreal for the next June F1 show.

Most people were relieved that the three levels of governments refused to submit to Mr. Ecclestone's blackmail: Why spend millions of tax dollars on car racing - a noisy and polluting event to boot - at a time of economic uncertainty?

Still, the departure of the Grand Prix is a financial loss, and various groups and personalities are scrambling to come up with alternative events, encouraged by the fact that the three governments were ready to spend $110-million to retain the Grand Prix in Montreal. A Red Bull air race over the St. Lawrence River? A preview run of the Tour de France? A series of blockbuster exhibitions? A race of electric cars on the tracks built for the Grand Prix? Sporting "galas" in boxing, football or soccer? Globe and Mail

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