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MH370 CRASH: The show must go on

Publication Date : 28-03-2014


Now, more than ever, when the eyes of the world are on us, our country needs to be able to host this weekend’s major sporting events.

"All my prayers and sympathies go to the friends and families of the passengers on MH370 flight #PrayFor MH370.”

This tweet from former world champion and Mercedes AMG Petronas driver Lewis Hamilton is just one of the many messages of sympathy from participants of the two international sporting events happening at the same time this weekend in the Klang Valley.

The Eurasia Cup golf tournament in Glenmarie will see a host of top European and Asian golfers battling it out in a Ryder Cup-style format. Over in Sepang, the annual F1 Grand Prix is back in town.

Both these major events have been somewhat overshadowed by the tragic disappearance of Flight MH370.

Indeed, the organisers of the Petronas Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix must be praised for limiting the number of entertainment events connected with the main race out of respect for the families of the passengers and crew of MH370.

It’s understood that the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) will also host some kind of tribute for Flight MH370 before the Grand Prix race on Sunday.

At the launch of the Eurasia Cup yesterday, attended by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, a respectful moment of silence was observed by the European and Asian Tour ­golfers as well as the spectators.

All players and officials are wearing black ribbons and a Wall of Condolence has been installed in the tented village, where visitors to the tournament can pen messages.

There have been calls for both these sporting events to be cancelled as a mark of respect to the families of the passengers and crew of MH370, but I believe the show must go on.

The Malaysian government is not being insensitive to the feelings of the families concerned. On the contrary, as the prime minister said when he attended the Laureus World Sports Awards, Malaysia appreciates the overwhelming support from the international sporting fraternity.

“Two days ago, I had to make a sudden announcement regarding Flight MH370, which has put the family and friends of the 239 passengers and crew in a difficult position.

“While the nation is in mourning, I would like to thank the organisers for giving us the support needed in these trying times,” he said in his speech.

Najib added that during the worst of times, people look to heroic feats, such as those by sportsmen, to inspire them.

“At this difficult time, we draw strength from individual stories of perseverance, of generosity, of endurance,’’ he said.

Now more than ever, when the eyes of the world are on us, our country needs to be able to host these major sporting events. The F1 Grand Prix especially is important for Malaysia.

ESPN F1 commentator Craig Slater believes that with the country absorbed with the MH370 tragedy for some weeks now, the race in Sepang will be some sort of release.

“It’ll be naive to suggest that the Grand Prix will make a difference, but perhaps this will be the most poignant grand prix of the season,’’ he ventured.

This is the 16th anniversary of the race as well as the track – the Sepang International Circuit.

The first Malaysian Grand Prix was inaugurated by the then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1999 and many then questioned the wisdom of spending millions on the circuit and hosting a sport that many Malaysians had no clue about.

Sixteen years down the road, this notion has been well and truly put to rest. The SIC is a permanent fixture on the F1 Grand Prix calendar.

Over the three days of racing, hundreds of thousands of fans, many of them from out of the country, converge on Sepang to cheer on their favourite team and driver.

Even the drivers themselves rate the SIC.

Hamilton’s teammate and current ­championship leader Nico Rosberg calls it one of the most challenging tracks on the inter­national circuit.

But, perhaps the best accolade to Sepang is that it has produced many copycats.

Our neighbours down south joined the bandwagon, and currently play host to a popular leg – the Singapore Grand Prix, which is the only night race.

Shanghai via the UBS Chinese Grand Prix and Abu Dhabi via the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix have also taken a leaf out of Sepang.

Mercedes-Benz Malaysia Sdn Bhd president and CEO Roland S. Folger is a staunch supporter of the Sepang race.

“The Grand Prix provides Malaysia the opportunity to continue to leverage on Formula One’s massive global appeal and to position Malaysia as a major sporting and tourism destination,” he noted.

“With all the celebrations leading up to F1 week, the race not only provides public exposure for companies such as ours but also ­bene­fits the local food, beverage, transportation and services sector.’’

The Petronas Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix starts today with free practice and ends on Sunday.


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