Montreal has lost a major spectator event to strife in the streets. The city s Grand Prix race, one of the biggest tourist events inCanada, has cancelled the long-standing opening chapter to raceweekend a free open house that often draws more than 25,000racing fans to the track. More Related to this Story Indy 500 Danica Patrick is looking ahead at NASCAR, puts IndyCar inrearview mirror Mark Webber triumphs at Monaco Grand Prix While organizers promise the race itself will go ahead withincreased security next weekend, the open house gave fans a uniquechance to roam the pit lane, see cars up close, watch mechanics atwork, and even have chance encounters with their racing heroes. That s sad.
A lot of guys who go to [the] open house are peoplewith kids and families who may not have the means to go to theGrand Prix, and think this is as close as they can get. Who do [theprotesters] really want to hurt? said Bernardo Pisarzewski, along-time Formula 1 fan and president of the Quebec chapter of theFerrari Club of America. For nearly four months now, students have led marches in thestreets to protest against a tuition hike and a list of grievancesagainst the provincial government. The demonstrations haveoccasionally descended into violence, driving many Montrealers toavoid downtown. One of the more radical student associations had threatened todisrupt the event, which is also under threat from a looseassociation of Internet activist hackers, known as Anonymous.
Canadian Grand Prix president Fran ois Dumontier said a securityreview of threats to the free event, with open access to the courseand pit lane, revealed some risks we could not neglect. Cancelling the open house day was the only action we couldtake, he said in a statement. Student leaders accused race organizers of exaggerating the threat.During recent negotiations, Education Minister Michelle Courchesneaccused one student leader of promising to fix your Grand Prix, words she decried as a threat. The student leader, GabrielNadeau-Dubois, later denied he was making a threat. Sierra Wireless Router
It s fear founded on prejudice, said Jeanne Reynolds, aspokesperson of student group CLASSE, along with Mr. Nadeau-Dubois. It s really meant just to be an action to be visible. There snothing to worry about. The Montreal mayor and local business leaders say they fearprotests will scare off vacationers, but the city s tourism boardsaid it isn t anticipating a massive rash of hotel and tourcancellations. Huawei Wireless Modems Manufacturer
The first four months of 2012 were quite strong, April was aheadof 2011, so we expect a slight dip in May and perhaps early June but there will be lots of tourists, no question about that, saidPierre Bellerose, vice-president of Tourism Montreal. There sbeen a lot of buzz abroad over the past year, we ve been on lotsof best destinations lists. Because most foreign F1 fans are locked into their bookings, Mr.Bellerose theorized that the main effects of the dispute willlikely result from local Grand Prix goers avoiding downtownMontreal; according to the race s promoters, roughly half theattendees come from Montreal, other areas in Quebec or from easternOntario. Organizers of other Montreal events, such as the Jazz Festival andles FrancoFolies, are watching with worry. China Sierra Wireless Router
Gilbert Rozon, thefounder of Just for Laughs, has asked to meet with students onMonday after carrying on a major public row with them for the pastmonth. Ticket sales for his festival are down 50 per cent, he said. Nobody knows how long the disruption might last, or how bad itmight get. Mr. Pisarzewski s club has moved their traditionalshowcase of their Ferrari sports cars to the distant West Islandsuburbs from their usual spot in Little Italy, in part to avoid anyrun-ins with protesters who frequently cover several kilometres ofthe city s core with long marches.
Mr. Pisarzewski said his group had already thought about finding afresh location. The protests only added extra motivation. I m dying to see how this all winds up, he said. Is it allsmoke and no fire? Is there going to be a lot of hot air? I hopeall the worrying is for nothing.
With files from Sean Gordon and The Canadian Press.