Latin America seems to have contracted a modern version of Opera House Syndrome, a 19th and 20th century pandemic that swept through the region causing every country with even an ounce of self-respect to build a place where overweight singers in gaudy costumes could belt out their arias and oratorios.
Only this time around, the delirium that s descending on countries like Mexico and Argentina isn t for the masterworks of Rossini or Wagner, but rather for the mighty machines of Ferrari and Mercedes. Both countries are hoping to host Formula 1 (F1) car races --and say they re willing to put the infrastructure in place to make it happen.
The economic crisis in Europe and the raw materials-driven boom in Latin America are combining to shift the balance of power in the multibillion-dollar F1 racing circuit. Bernie Ecclestone, the man at the top of the operation, has made it clear he s looking for new markets in general, and eyeing Latin America in particular.
Argentine President Cristina Fern ndez de Kirchner is ready to oblige. Formula 1 is coming back to Argentina. And the races will take place in Mar del Plata, she announced this past March. Argentina had its own F1 Grand Prix for decades, but stopped hosting the event after the 1999 version was canceled preseason.
Fern ndez de Kirchner acknowledged that for now, the plan to bring F1 racing back to the country after a 15-year hiatus is still in the negotiations stage. But she made it clear she expects to close the deal. I hope this ends up being signed, if not I swear I ll kill you, she jokingly told Argentine Tourism Minister Enrique Meyer.
Formula 1 will shake on the deal once the money s on the table. How much? Between $200 million and $300 million, of which the Argentine state will have to shell out somewhere in the $65 million range. All of that for just three events --one race per year from 2013 to 2015. Part of that money would go to upgrading the roads and avenues where the races would take place, in Mar del Plata, a coastal city and popular summer tourist destination.
Argentine authorities are hoping the event will bring in even more tourism dollars. Ecclestone is of course looking to profit as well, and thinks expansion into new countries is the way to do it. In 2014, Formula 1 will have a new race in Sochi, Russia. This year a race is slated for Austin, Texas. Spain hosts two races, but will lose one in 2013. Chile, Peru, Panama? Are you taking note?
Read the original story in Spanish
Photo - Beatrice Murch
*This is a digest item, not a direct translation