More than just cars racing around in circles

 Originally posted on PeterMcGinley.com Hello. That’s ‘hello’ in Malay, apparently. So, ‘hello’ from Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia!I find myself in the city of the iconic Petronas Twin Towers just 48 hours after the Australian Grand Prix, but it feels like only… yesterday that Melbourne and the world witnessed Kimi Räikkönen’s twentieth Formula One victory. Michael and Rob, those two flogs, had me deported shortly afterwards, and sent me off to a country with an economy once based largely on rubber, tin, and palm oil – and I’m not allowed to come back for one week. So, I may as well check out the Malaysian Grand Prix while I’m here.Initial impressions of KL? It’s bloody hot, and equally bloody humid. It’s reminiscent of far north Queensland, but probably with less racism. But more importantly, the city is welcoming Formula One with open arms.At home in Melbourne we’ve all heard the constant debating that rages over the Australian Grand Prix costing too much, all the while ignoring the obvious value in the global exposure a weekend of racing provides to the city.Right from the start, Malaysia and its government shouted loudly and proudly that Formula One is in town.Anywhere you look you can see the race being promoted – from shopping centres and supermarkets, to bus shelters and airports. The host broadcaster, Star Sports, is constantly running promos for its coverage of practice, qualifying, and raceday – and they aren’t even the same each time, with every spot making use of different bits of footage from last round. The presenters from different programmes during the day are also actively cross promoting the station’s weekend coverage. You’d almost think Star Sports was a dedicated F1 channel.It’s one thing to saturate a market with ads, but quite another to gauge just how happy Mr and Mrs Malaysia are to have the event in the first place. So far, everyone I’ve spoken to seems genuinely happy for Formula One to be in their country, and excited that Malaysia is lifted proudly onto the world stage for one weekend each year.Walking out of the KL airport, I was greeted by a taxi driver whose first words to me were ‘Good morning, here for the Grand Prix?’. I mentioned I was from Melbourne on the ride to Kuala Lumpur, which sparked a conversation about the Australian Grand Prix and Kimi Räikkönen’s thrilling win. The driver admitted he wasn’t a big fan of motorsport, but was acutely aware of the good it was doing for his country, and the sense of anticipation in the city. He also added that he’d watched the race in Melbourne to get a feel for the sport so he could engage with the influx of visitors to Malaysia that weekend, armed with a little background knowledge.We eventually got to my hotel where everyone from the doormen, receptionists, and even the room service staff, are excited that I’ve found Kuala Lumpur (and their hotel, presumably) through Formula One. When they ask why I’m in the country, you can almost see a light bulb light up in their head as they give a genuine smile and strike up a conversation about the race. Maybe half of them are also race fans, while the other are at least aware of the good work the race’s reputation is doing for Malaysia.So apart from the immediate affect tourism money has on a host nation like Malaysia, what other benefits are there? The long-term global exposure, of course.Let’s go back to the taxi driver at the airport. Before he watched the race, he was hardly aware of what Melbourne was – so much so that he assumed I was from Sydney when he found out I was an Australian.Unfortunately for Melbourne (and Melbournians traveling abroad), this is all too common. When people think of Australia, they immediately think of Sydney. Sydney is a city built on tourism – it has the landmarks now universally synonymous with Australia.So as the driver began to rattle off icons like the harbour bridge and ‘that thing with the big sails like a ship’, I interjected and told him I was from the much nicer city of Melbourne – to which he replied he’d seen a race there on the TV. He saw the river flowing through the city, the tall building made of glass and gold, and people playing tennis on top of a building. He thought it all looked very pretty, and would be a nice place to visit one day.That’s why Melbourne needs the Grand Prix. We don’t have the international landmarks, we don’t have the icons, and we’re also stuck somewhere in the middle of Tourism Australia’s TV ads. Instead, we have international events like Formula One races. If we didn’t have the race, people like my taxi driver friend wouldn’t know anything about us. There wouldn’t be and shots of Melbourne on all the TV ads, and we wouldn’t have been able to ride the wave of anticipation in the world’s media for the return of Formula One.No-one is denying that $50 million is a lot of money, but how can anyone say that this sort of exposure doesn’t balance it out in the long term? This investment has created enormous awareness of our city around the world. The taxi driver now knows who we are, and may even visit our fair city one day. You can’t quantify this stuff, and you can’t put that in your budget. It’s more than just those immediate hotel and restaurant dollars – it’s that long term money that rolls in to the economy when Mr and Mrs Malaysia remember us from the TV and come around for a visit.Not so long ago, Malaysia’s economy was largely one based on rubber, tin, and palm oil. Today it’s more diverse, and the country is fast becoming south-east Asia’s major tourism hub for people around the world. The Grand Prix isn’t solely responsible, but its role in this transformation mustn’t be understated.This weekend, as it did to Melbourne two days ago, Formula One will elevate Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur onto the world stage because, after all, it’s a whole lot more than just cars racing around in circles.Hello. That’s ‘hello’ in Malay, apparently. So, ‘hello’ from Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia!I find myself in the city of the iconic Petronas Twin Towers just 48 hours after the Australian Grand Prix, but it feels like only… yesterday that Melbourne and the world witnessed Kimi Räikkönen’s twentieth Formula One victory. Michael and Rob, those two flogs, had me deported shortly afterwards, and sent me off to a country with an economy once based largely on rubber, tin, and palm oil – and I’m not allowed to come back for one week. So, I may as well check out the Malaysian Grand Prix while I’m here.Initial impressions of KL? It’s bloody hot, and equally bloody humid. It’s reminiscent of far north Queensland, but probably with less racism. But more importantly, the city is welcoming Formula One with open arms.At home in Melbourne we’ve all heard the constant debating that rages over the Australian Grand Prix costing too much, all the while ignoring the obvious value in the global exposure a weekend of racing provides to the city.Right from the start, Malaysia and its government shouted loudly and proudly that Formula One is in town.Anywhere you look you can see the race being promoted – from shopping centres and supermarkets, to bus shelters and airports. The host broadcaster, Star Sports, is constantly running promos for its coverage of practice, qualifying, and raceday – and they aren’t even the same each time, with every spot making use of different bits of footage from last round. The presenters from different programmes during the day are also actively cross promoting the station’s weekend coverage. You’d almost think Star Sports was a dedicated F1 channel.It’s one thing to saturate a market with ads, but quite another to gauge just how happy Mr and Mrs Malaysia are to have the event in the first place. So far, everyone I’ve spoken to seems genuinely happy for Formula One to be in their country, and excited that Malaysia is lifted proudly onto the world stage for one weekend each year.Walking out of the KL airport, I was greeted by a taxi driver whose first words to me were ‘Good morning, here for the Grand Prix?’. I mentioned I was from Melbourne on the ride to Kuala Lumpur, which sparked a conversation about the Australian Grand Prix and Kimi Räikkönen’s thrilling win. The driver admitted he wasn’t a big fan of motorsport, but was acutely aware of the good it was doing for his country, and the sense of anticipation in the city. He also added that he’d watched the race in Melbourne to get a feel for the sport so he could engage with the influx of visitors to Malaysia that weekend, armed with a little background knowledge.We eventually got to my hotel where everyone from the doormen, receptionists, and even the room service staff, are excited that I’ve found Kuala Lumpur (and their hotel, presumably) through Formula One. When they ask why I’m in the country, you can almost see a light bulb light up in their head as they give a genuine smile and strike up a conversation about the race. Maybe half of them are also race fans, while the other are at least aware of the good work the race’s reputation is doing for Malaysia.So apart from the immediate affect tourism money has on a host nation like Malaysia, what other benefits are there? The long-term global exposure, of course.Let’s go back to the taxi driver at the airport. Before he watched the race, he was hardly aware of what Melbourne was – so much so that he assumed I was from Sydney when he found out I was an Australian.Unfortunately for Melbourne (and Melbournians traveling abroad), this is all too common. When people think of Australia, they immediately think of Sydney. Sydney is a city built on tourism – it has the landmarks now universally synonymous with Australia.So as the driver began to rattle off icons like the harbour bridge and ‘that thing with the big sails like a ship’, I interjected and told him I was from the much nicer city of Melbourne – to which he replied he’d seen a race there on the TV. He saw the river flowing through the city, the tall building made of glass and gold, and people playing tennis on top of a building. He thought it all looked very pretty, and would be a nice place to visit one day.That’s why Melbourne needs the Grand Prix. We don’t have the international landmarks, we don’t have the icons, and we’re also stuck somewhere in the middle of Tourism Australia’s TV ads. Instead, we have international events like Formula One races. If we didn’t have the race, people like my taxi driver friend wouldn’t know anything about us. There wouldn’t be and shots of Melbourne on all the TV ads, and we wouldn’t have been able to ride the wave of anticipation in the world’s media for the return of Formula One.No-one is denying that $50 million is a lot of money, but how can anyone say that this sort of exposure doesn’t balance it out in the long term? This investment has created enormous awareness of our city around the world. The taxi driver now knows who we are, and may even visit our fair city one day. You can’t quantify this stuff, and you can’t put that in your budget. It’s more than just those immediate hotel and restaurant dollars – it’s that long term money that rolls in to the economy when Mr and Mrs Malaysia remember us from the TV and come around for a visit.Not so long ago, Malaysia’s economy was largely one based on rubber, tin, and palm oil. Today it’s more diverse, and the country is fast becoming south-east Asia’s major tourism hub for people around the world. The Grand Prix isn’t solely responsible, but its role in this transformation mustn’t be understated.This weekend, as it did to Melbourne two days ago, Formula One will elevate Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur onto the world stage because, after all, it’s a whole lot more than just cars racing around in circles.

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