The uncertainty over the future of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne has added weight to Sydney's determination to wrest the event away from Albert Park.

With opposition mounting over the amount of taxpayers' money being spent keeping F1 on the streets of the Victoria state capital, and various alternatives being mooted should the situation deteriorate to the point where the existing contract - which runs to 2015 - is cancelled, Sydney has stuck its head above the parapet and declared an interest in staging the event.

Unlike Geelong, which revealed last week that it may consider bidding to take the grand prix 75km down the Victoria coast, Sydney's approach for the race would come as part of a much grander scale assault on its state rival.

"Victoria has been able to sneak under our nose to host our biggest sporting events, such as the State of Origin rugby league and rugby's Bledisloe Cup," New South Wales opposition party leader Barry O'Farrell explained, "These sports have very limited appeal in Victoria, but they generate millions in tourism dollars and we are missing out on that revenue at present."

The NSW opposition is considered favourite to form the next state government after next month's elections, and O'Farrell revealed to the local Herald Sun newspaper that other high-profile events, including the Australian Open tennis and golf tournaments, were also on his radar.

"We have all felt envious of Victoria being able to bring the likes of Tiger Woods to Australia -- and the world-wide coverage those visits have attracted," he admitted, "Bringing sporting superstars to compete in local events also attracts thousands of visitors from interstate and overseas and the economic benefits are enormous."

Already planning to bid to host Major League Baseball's season-opener, New South Wales is not stopping at sporting events, with big theatre and business events also targeted as it attempts to steal a march on Victoria. The former Olympic host has already established itself on the national motorsport scene by staging two V8 Supercar events on the streets around Homebush Park, which previously formed part of the Games village.

The current Australian Grand Prix is rumoured to be costing in excess of $50m to stage, and is only likely to rise further between now and the end of its contract in 2015. Melbourne mayor Robert Doyle has suggested that it is time for the event to be axed, but the state government insists that it is prepared to see out the contract, even if it is forced to consider ways of reducing the expenditure. F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, however, has decided to call the organisers' bluff, despite admitting that the sport was happy at Albert Park, and has suggested that, with alternative venues queuing up to join the schedule, the Australian GP may be expendable [see story here].



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