IN the lead-up to Saturday’s “community day” on the harbour foreshore, Supercars chief executive James Warburton was confidently predicting that a crowd of 5000 to 10,000 would be drawn to the city to buy tickets for the November race.
At the end of the day, Supercars will know how many tickets it has sold. Opinions vary as to just how many people turned out for Saturday’s road show, but there is no doubt that a large crowd descended on the foreshore for a taste of the hoopla that the organisers are promising on race week.
Reflecting on the crowd, Mr Warburton described it as “Newcastle voting with its feet” and “an amazing show of support which demonstrates just how much this community wants it and how much it means to the region”.
But for all of the hype, it should not be forgotten that this was an entertainment foisted on a group of residents with no warning and no consultation – an event so noisy, and so disruptive, that the recommended course of action for those who don’t like it is to move out for the weekend, as if only a fool would turn down the chance to rent their family home to a bunch of anonymous race fans.
For this is how many of the people who have the good fortune to live in the East End still view the situation, months after the race was announced. On Sunday, a group of about 45 people opposed to the race joined the annual May Day march to walk behind a banner that said “Families and community 1st, Supercars street race 2nd”.
Earlier in the week, Newcastle City Council had rejected a proposal from Greens councillors Therese Doyle and Michael Osborne to withdraw its in-principle support for the race and to urge the organisers to find a venue that does that “does not disrupt or pose any significant health or safety risk to residents”.
Given that Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes made the original announcement with then premier Mike Baird, such a back-flip was unlikely to ever succeed. Similarly, despite a shout from the public gallery at the council meeting to watch out for “civil actions”, the race will surely now proceed as planned.
With the race now just seven months away, and with track work unlikely to start until June, the organisers still have an enormous amount to do to turn the goodwill of Saturday’s community day into a successful event. Mr Warburton says ‘the first year is always by far and away the most difficult”.
Just how difficult, we will soon find out.