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EDITORIAL: Supercars marketing Newcastle to the world

ALMOST five months have passed since Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes joined then premier Mike Baird to announce the arrival of the Newcastle Supercars race, with the construction of millions of dollars worth of roadworks neededto make the event a reality soon tobegin.

While the most vocal opponents of the race are unsurprisingly the residents of the East End, they are by no means the only people worried about fuel-guzzling monsters screaming through the narrow streets of a heritage zone at 200kmh.

For its part, Newcastle City Council recognises there will be disruptions to residents –“especially those in close proximity to the track” –and is promising to “work closely with theorganisers to minimise disruption throughout the event”. Obviously, though, there are limits to how much anyone can minimise such disruption.First there’s the building of the track, which is set to start in late April, sparking fears of a protracted Foreshore construction zone. Then there’s the raceitself. Yes, East End properties are already advertised for race weekend rent, and at prices that might compensate their owners forthe inconvenience.

But for those who cannot leave –and who do not imagine themselves enjoying the roar of the engines and the crush of the crowd –race weekend will undoubtedly take its toll.

While the race will attract many thousands of motor enthusiasts to the city, the real reason for itslocation in the picturesque East End is, in the council’s words, “to showcase Newcastle on a national and international stage”. With subsidies to the event being kept confidential, the promised benefit is an “an international TV audience in the millions” seeing “the city and our beautiful coastal setting in full glory at a beautiful time of year”. The race, then, is atourism advertisement, with those people lucky enough to call the East End home being asked to make personal sacrifices in the name of the greater good.

And that greater good is to market Newcastle and the Hunterto the wider world, both as a destination to visit, and as a place to live. Only time will tell whether the Supercars make an appreciable difference in that regard. In the meantime, if things areto run smoothly, the various organisations behind the race need to make peace with the residents whose streets will be invaded each year until at least 2021, and possibly even 2026.

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