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What?! Opera House to become billboard for horse race

October 8, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

In a bizarre decision that has drawn comment from around the world – while provoking outrage and a growing backlash at home – Australia’s most famous tourism icon is to be used as a billboard to advertise a horse race.

World Heritage-listed Sydney Opera House is seen as a symbol of Sydney and of Australia. Only Uluru / Ayers Rock and Sydney Harbour Bridge come anywhere near the Opera House as internationally recognised Australian tourism landmarks.

That’s why the recent decision to project horse race promotional ads on the Opera House sails – after pressure from the NSW Government – was controversial from the start. It produced surprise, dismay and hilarity around the world.

Sample of world headlines:

  • Anger as Australia’s Sydney Opera House used for horse racing ads – South China Morning Post.
  • Sydney Opera House horse race ‘advertising’ sparks uproar – Times of India.
  • Son of Sydney Opera House architect ‘appalled’ by advertising on sails – Sydney Sun Herald.

The Opera House sails are illuminated beautifully during the city’s annual Vivid Sydney festival of light, music and ideas – but the Vivid illuminations may have sewn the seeds of using the Opera House as a giant billboard.

Current plans will see the sails serve as huge screens to display a horse race trophy, barrier numbers and colour of the jockeys’ silks – maybe even video of horses running – to publicise a race event due to be held in Sydney next weekend.

The promoters are keen to lift the profile of the race, perhaps seeing it as a rival to the Melbourne Cup.

Tasteful use. Vivid Sydney illuminations

In an interview on Sydney radio station 2GB, Sydney Opera House chief executive Louise Herron said she opposed the horse race advertising plan – whereupon broadcaster Alan Jones called for Herron to be sacked if she couldn’t “come to the party”.

“If I were Gladys Berejiklian I’d pick up the phone and sack you today,” Jones said.

Petitions sprang up in the weekend to support Herron and stop the ad plan. One petition on Change.org here passed 125,000 signatures early this morning and the total is clearly heading far higher.

Supporters of the horse race ads argue the Opera House was originally financed by a lottery so there’s nothing wrong with screening a gambling event on it. Others disagree, saying Sydney Opera House is now an Australian icon and deserves respect.

Will the Opera House be used for other advertising? Used cars, anyone?

Berejiklian has the final say.

Some sort of compromise may see the jockey’s colours projected on the sails but stop short of video showing horses running or advertising logos. Will horse numbers and similar be shown, or the race itself? We shall find out.

Written by Peter Needham

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