While Australian Grand Prix boss Ron Walker is confident Melbourne will retain the Formula One race beyond 2015 he has taken a swipe at the massive public funding poured into the Australian Open tennis tournament.
Walker said the Open - the country's only other truly global sporting event - escaped criticism due to public perception of it as wholesome and family-friendly.
But he said the often criticised Formula One subsidies needed to be viewed in terms of how much money tennis received from the Victorian Government and the comparative global audiences the two events attracted.
"When you think there's over $1 billion invested in tennis equipment at Melbourne Park and there's a debt service on that of almost $100 million I think the Grand Prix serves Australia very well," Walker said.
The grand prix would cost around $55 million in government money this year, according to Walker, but it was on "a very good footing" for renegotiating the contract which would begin next year.
He said that tennis tended to fly under the radar when the issue of government backing surfaced.
"The grand prix looks expensive but so is the tennis," he said.
"We've never had the debate about the tennis before. They have committed another $368 million to keep it until 2036.
"There's already $1 billion been spent down there but people don't talk about that."
According to Walker, tennis' worldwide television audience were mainly cable viewers while the F1 race was on free-to-air TV in many countries.
He said the decision whether to bid for an extension for the race beyond 2015 was "entirely" up to Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu.
"If he thinks it's good for the state he'll renew it, if he doesn't, he won't," he said.
But he said the government understood the importance of the grand prix in attracting the attention needed to bring even bigger events to Australia.
"If you lose the grand prix you'll never get something back of that size for 20 years," he said.
"We'll never see another Olympics, we'll never see another Commonwealth Games, we won't see World Cup soccer."
AAPTags: formula-1, motor-sports, australian-open, tennis, sport, melbourne-3000, vic, australia First posted February 02, 2012 21:53:00