S.Korea GP fails to draw big crowds


YEONGAM: After three years of work, a 275 million dollar investment and frantic last-minute building work, Formula One comes to South Korea this weekend on what is touted as Asia’s best circuit.
F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has predicted the world will watch a “great race”, on a 5.6-kilometre (3.5-mile) track featuring a mix of corners, long straights and good overtaking opportunities.
But ticket sales have been slow and big business groups have shunned the opportunity to sponsor the event, even though South Korea is the world’s fifth largest automaker. Organisers remain upbeat, saying they are looking to long-term returns after spending an estimated 340 billion won building the circuit on reclaimed land in Yeongam county, in South Jeolla province, 320 kilometres south of Seoul.
A floral tower with an F1 logo greets visitors to the track, which passed an inspection by world governing body the FIA just last week. It will be the country’s biggest sports facility capable of accommodating more than 120,000 spectators at a time. But ticket sales have been slow and as of Monday organisers said only 60,000-70,000 had been sold.
Some attribute the sluggish sales and delayed construction to regional rivalries, which despite South Korea’s relatively small size remain a potent force. South Jeolla is a stronghold of the party currently in opposition and the province shouldered over half of the construction costs, plus enormous sums for approach roads and other infrastructure.