Wednesday, August 20, 2003

The Legislative Formula: The Canadian Grand Prix finds itself off the schedule next year because of Canadian legislation restricting tobacco advertising. Many of the racing teams are sponsored by tobacco companies. In fact, many of the storied names in racing are closely linked with tobacco brands: Silk Cut, John Player, and -- dominant today -- Marlboro. As John Spiridakis details, at TCS:
When the law was passed in 1997, the Canadian Grand Prix was granted a six-year grace period before the strict ban on tobacco advertising at sporting events would be enforced. The deadline for this reprieve is October 1 of this year. The Formula One teams have agreed to a self-imposed ban on tobacco advertising, effective 2006. Yet, with few exceptions, the teams refuse to race in countries with bans currently in place. Most of the newer Grands Prix on the calendar are being organized in countries such as China and Bahrain, where tobacco advertising is not an issue.

The news of the demise of their largest tourist event has hit Les Montréalais hard. The French-Canadian city relies heavily on tourism and along with a horde of race fans, the annual Grand Prix brings in an estimated US$60 million of revenue.

As Spiridakis reports, Canadian politicians are investigating remedies, but have strictly ruled out modifying the law. It's hard to imagine what sort of solution is available, though, with the law in place as written. This is, as Spiridakis observes, a real shame. Montreal is a great setting for a race, with the course beautifully laid out on an island in the St. Lawrence. It's also the only race an American can easily see in person (leaving aside the silliness of running F1 cars at Indianapolis these past few years). Yet another whack at the decidedly non-powerhouse Canadian economy courtesy of the good intentions of the political left.

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