The sound of engines revving at this past weekend at the Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix evoked different kind of emotions in Singaporeans. Every year when the Formula 1 (F1) roll in at this time, it is pure ear orgasm for some while it is nothing but nuisance for others.
Who can blame them? Numerous road closures, disruptions to the shopping trade and pollution go against the backdrop of Lewis Hamilton and company strolling in to town armed with their glamorous entourages.
As Western governments are increasingly reluctant to host expensive and huge events, Singapore continues to buck the trend. The Republic took a huge risk when it fought to obtain a license to host a race because hosts do not receive the rights for television broadcast. Profits from the race come solely from ticket sales.
These governments approach the idea of hosting a F1 race very differently. They do countless of cost-benefit calculus analysis because it is immaterial to them whether there are short-term returns from hosting a F1 race.
So what do they look at? The future and its potential benefits. Instead of viewing the F1 as a one-off event, these government envision the race to be a bigger and much more prestigious event.
Spot the similarities. Countries who yearn for a place on the F1 calendar have also recently sought to host the Olympics and the football World Cup.
As the Singapore Government wants to be seen as a force to be reckoned as a F1 race destination, it sold the naming rights of the race to the corporate world. Telecomunications giant, SingTel was the first to come onboard and six years later, the city-state’s flagship carrier, Singapore Airlines (SIA) has now taken over.
With F1 being the sport with the biggest following other than the Olympics and the football World Cup, it gives SIA the golden opportunity of being viewed as a global player and improves its status as a world-class airline.
The last thing we want is for Singapore to follow the examples of India, South Korea and Turkey, countries who spent too much money in too little time to host a F1 race without any sustainable plan for the future.
The challenge now for Singapore is to package its night race to reinforce its sustainability and viability.
A poor economy is one of the many reasons Western governments are reluctant to invest in soft power. These circumstances force them to back away from events as huge as the F1. With Singapore’s attempts to be a global power, it cannot afford to take a breather.
Globalisation has forced Singapore to cement its position in the global marketplace as the ability to stay relevant and have an active participation in global affairs become ever more important.
So is F1 beneficial for Singapore’s sustainability? Yes, for now.
To ensure its sustainability, it is imperative that we remember about the long-term benefits and work towards that goal instead of being too tunneled-vision and focusing on the instant ringing of the cash register that is the value of the thousands of spectators that were drawn in by Jennifer Lopez shaking her booty.