Massive Public Outcry Against Horse Race On Opera House Sails
Tens of thousands have signed a petition slamming the government decision to promote next Saturday's Everest horse race on the Sydney Opera House.
Even the United Nations has reportedly joined a chorus of criticism from outraged individuals and public figures from the gambling industry and the arts who have blasted the NSW Premier's green light to display colours, numbers and a racing trophy on one of the country's most iconic landmarks.
At time of writing, a change.org petition to "defend our Opera House", that was only started on Saturday, has reached over 44,000 signatures.
A bitter feud has been simmering over Racing NSW's plan to promote the barrier draw for the $13 million horse race that government officials call a "drawcard for NSW".
It came to a head on Friday when radio broadcaster Alan Jones berated Opera House executive Louise Herron on air as she defended the World Heritage-listed building against being used as a "commercial billboard".
“What we won't do is put text or videos of horses running or horses’ numbers or names or the Everest logo on the Opera House sails," she said, referencing the Opera House charter, which she was being pushed to ignore.
The state government stepped in on Friday night with a "reasonable" compromise, according to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
"There'll be no logos or names -- the only words on there are the words of the trophy itself," she told reporters on Sunday.
"That is consistent with what's happened in the past, whether it's other sporting events of opportunities or other artistic expressions.
"I'm absolutely confident it's the right thing to do, it's the right thing for Sydney."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the promotion "common sense" and "a bit of a no-brainer", saying he'd happily advertise similar events on the Sydney Harbour Bridge aswell.
"This is one of the biggest events of the year (so) why not put it on the biggest billboard Sydney has?" he said on Sunday.
But many view the decision as a dangerous tipping point, saying it risked the building's commercialisation and its world heritage listing.
A spokesman for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) told The Guardian the World Heritage Centre is "looking into" the move, while others who say it is inconsistent with the building's 2007 status listing.
In a statement, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said she was "appalled" by the instructions from the state government.
"This is blatant commercialisation of Australia's world heritage-listed Opera House for an industry notorious for damaging gambling and animal cruelty," she told the Guardian.
Stephen Mayne, spokesman for Alliance for Gambling Reform, agreed.
“The Opera House should not be downgraded by gambling promotions when NSW is already the most gambling-captured jurisdiction where residents lost almost $7 billion a year on 92,000 poker machines,” he told ten daily.
Closer to home, the son of Peter Hall, the Australian architect who completed the Opera House and a former Trust chairman, told Fairfax Media his father "would have been sickened by it".
"He would not have condoned advertising on the building in any way, lucky he's not around to see the desecration of our beautiful iconic masterpiece."
But Berejklian is standing firm, asking the public to "put this into perspective".
"I say to people, have a look on Tuesday before you judge it," she said.