Planned racing ad on sails of Sydney Opera House divisive

Tanya Simon
October 10, 2018

Following the NSW government's controversial choice to allow the upcoming Everest horse race to be promoted on the sails of the Sydney Opera House, an online petition supporting its CEO Louise Herron - who rejected the ads - has gained almost 150,000 signatures in a couple of days (at time of publication).

The ad, which was proposed by Racing NSW to promote The Everest horse race, was initially rejected by Sydney Opera House chief executive officer Louise Herron, as it would breach a policy against the commercialisation of the World Heritage landmark.

NSW Minister for Racing Paul Toole defended his government's decision, saying there was "no way this is devaluing the Opera House".

On Monday, an online petition against the planned advertisement garnered over 190,000 signatures.

The World Heritage-listed site will show the advert on Tuesday, after an order by the New South Wales premier.

Anti-gambling campaigner Tim Costello said the advertising demonstrated the power of the Australian horse racing industry that made a profit of A$3.3 billion Australian dollars ($3.6 billion) past year.

"Why not put it on the biggest billboard Sydney has?"

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"These events generate massive economic opportunities".

"It's not like they're painting it (the promotion) on there", the Liberal leader said on Monday. It ... has politicians in the palm of its hand, ' the anti-gambling campaigner told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. I mean, it's some lights flashing up there for a brief moment of time, " he added.

"I don't think most Australians, when they think about the Opera House, think of it as a billboard", Mr Shorten said. After all, there is no evidence that advertising would degrade the value of the Opera House; indeed, it is possible that regular and colourful displays of prominent brand names on the otherwise bland white sails of the building would enhance, rather than diminish, its tourist appeal.

Graham Quint, a National Trust of Australia manager, said the advertising contravened federal and state laws governing use of the Opera House. The Change.org petition Defend Our Opera House: Support Lousie Herron is growing at an extraordinary pace.

Herron pointed out, she'd already agreed to the projection of the jockeys' colours, which Racing NSW CEO Peter V'landys argued would be "meaningless".

The Opera House declined to comment on the controversy, referring all queries to the state government.

In the past the Opera House has been used to project colours and images, marking events, from sports matches to religious holidays, as well as the annual Vivid light and sound festival.

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