At a cost of more than $4.5 million, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat told The Media Line that it was worth every penny.
Video courtesy of jn1.tv
“This will make a huge contribution to branding and promoting peace,” he said. “We see this as an investment for the long-term and we have no doubt that we will get a good return on our investment.”
Barkat said the Israeli government put up about $1.2 million and the Jerusalem municipality about $750,000. Philanthropists, including computer security expert Eugene Kaspersky, chipped in $1.3 million and the rest, according to Barkat, came from sponsorship and ticket sales of VIP seats at an average of $100 per ticket.
As for the peace part, Barkat seemed to be reaching a little in explaining the dubious use of the word to describe the event.
“Motor sports is the second most popular sport in the world after soccer,” he said. “You will see around the track Muslims, Christians and Jews who have come to watch the show. It brings people together with a message of peace and coexistence.”
Eugene Kaspersky, who wrote a fat check and runs a team in the Formula One races, said he agrees.
“The Middle East is a hot place,” he told The Media Line in Russian-accented English. “Sports events and Olympic games were introduced to make people come together.”
But that said, no Arab countries or Palestinians were invited to participate in the event, which runs through only Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem.
Israel’s neighbor Jordan held its own high speed race, the Jordan Rally, last month. Would he like to see that car race end in Jerusalem, one journalist asked Barkat.
“Amen,” the mayor answered.
Drivers thrilled to be in JerusalemSome Jerusalemites also complained that major arteries of the city were closed for the third time in recent months. The first was the Jerusalem marathon in March followed by US President Barack Obama’s trip to Israel, and now the Formula One race.
The Jerusalem municipal website predicted “traffic disruptions throughout the city” and urged residents not to drive private cars anywhere but to use public transportation. It also warned of delays on many bus routes.
Yet some tourists and visitors still seemed excited about seeing these high-end cars.
The ones that sparked the most excitement were the bright-red Ferraris costing upward of $180,000. Before the race the cars were displayed in a large hangar and hundreds of people paid $6 for a peek.
The drivers themselves seemed thrilled to be in Jerusalem.
“To drive such a car in such a town is really special,” Valentina Albanese, 39, the only female race car driver participating in the event told The Media Line. “It’s just fantastic to be here and to be part of it.”
When asked why more women are not race car drivers, she replied, “I really don’t understand why. We have two legs, two arms and a head just like men.”
Vitantonio Liuzzi, who has competed in 80 different Grand Prix races, said he was a little nervous before coming to Jerusalem.
“I just didn’t know what to expect,” he told The Media Line. “But now that I’m here and I feel the passion and the excitement here,” it’s great.
Liuzzi, who drives a Lotus LMS LMP2, said he sees it as a test for the upcoming famous Le Mans 24-hour race.
How fast will he drive?
“As fast as I can,” he said with a smile.
Article written by Linda Gradstein
Reprinted with permission from The Media Line