Thu, Nov 15, 2012 - Page 19 News List

Austin wonders if Sundays F1 race is ‘weird enough’

Reuters, AUSTIN, Texas

The council’s support of the project was needed to qualify the event for US$25 million in state subsidies that race officials can seek after it happens.

“If this were just another race car venue, well then, that would detract from our character,” Riley, who plans to bike to the race, said recently. “On the other hand, if this site becomes known as being the most sustainable racetrack in the world and that’s here in Austin, Texas, that’s a lot closer to the character of the city that we love.”

Edgar Farrera was brought on at Circuit of the Americas in January as what he believes is the first circuit sustainability director in the history of Grand Prix.

“We’re not trying to tell people: ‘If you want to do something to save the planet, go drive your car very fast,’” Farrera said.

Rather, he said he was constantly thinking about how to minimize the impact of crowds, whose traffic and waste will have a bigger environmental impact than the two dozen F1 cars, each of which races on a single tank of gas.

He delicately said that it does not much matter to the environment whether crowds arrive for a sporting event or a music festival.

Austin, which calls itself the Live Music Capital of the World, proudly hosts the Austin City Limits Music Festival and the South by Southwest music, film and interactive conferences.

Smith of Public Citizen said the track’s environmental initiatives do not go far enough.

“This is a heavily greenwashed race,” Smith said. “As you can tell, I’m not real happy.”

US Senator Kirk Watson, a Democrat who is a former Austin mayor, said F1 was just another way the city brings different people together.

“In the old days, it might have been rednecks sitting next to hippies,” Watson said at an opening ceremony for the track.

“In this day and age, though, it’s people from all over the world coming to enjoy the spirit of the town,” he said.

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