F1 4U?

September 22, 2008

And so Singapore’s first ever F1 race is almost upon us. While the rest of us try to look interested, the PAP government and its host of GLCs are pulling all the stops to make sure the event goes like clockwork as millions and millions of tax payers’ dollars are spent for the privilege of having the Singapore skyline beamed around the world. Money for welfare? Fuck off. Money for champagne parties, road closures, and F1 rights? Yay!

 

Alright, so all F1 events require government or state support and there is nothing wrong with building up our global city cred. But sometimes you wonder if we’ve got our priorities right. How do you square Minister of Community Development, Youth and Sport, Vivian Balakrishnan’s reply to MP Lily Neo last year who asked if we could increase the then S$260 a month to needy families? Neo’s argument was that this amount was hardly enough to buy three square meals. The Minister retorted, “How much do you want? Do you want three meals in a hawker centre, foodcourt, or restaurant?” The point is, yes, it’s great to lure all these mega events to the city but can’t we take care of our own while we’re doing it?

 

 

Against this backdrop, its very hard to get hyped up about shiny skinny cars. What’s worse, the F1 is like the Youth Olympic Games – you cannot be skeptical about it without looking churlish and unpatriotic.

 

But screw it, let’s be churlish and unpatriotic. If you read the blogs, speak to heartlanders in HDB estates, if you scan the forums or take a stroll downtown, you’ll realize there is no buzz. The sense of vibrancy and excitement that comes with the F1 event is just not there. Unlike other F1 cities like Melbourne, Shanghai, Monaco, Valencia, or Montreal where the buzz builds up in the month running up to the race, here in Singapore you just don’t see anyone excited about it.

 

Sure, the media is in overdrive. Adverts line Orchard Road, pseudo-documentaries of Singapore’s own racing heritage are screened on TV (it takes a foreign event for us to appreciate our heritage – how typical), and the odd promo here and the odd book there. But the people just can’t be bothered. There are some reasons why.

 

#1: The Wall Street party is bringing everyone down. From Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, AIG, stocks and confidence are plummeting faster than Hamilton can accelerate off the grid. Its no wonder people aren’t in the mood to be festive.

 

#2: The absence of good old nationalism. Let’s face it, unlike international football or table tennis where you can pretend Singapore is one big happy family until China wins everything, F1 just does not allow you turn into that ugly sneering jingoistic flag-waving Singaporean. Well, I guess you can find some sort of childish rivalry between Ferrari nerds and Mclaren egg-heads. But they both have more in common than they know it – apart from the fact that they both need a girlfriend neither of them will ever be able to afford the cars they scream for. So away they go parading their silly caps, stickers, t-shirts, and the other cheap paraphernalia they bought from Peninsula Plaza.

 

#3: You know deep in your heart that the F1, like the Esplanade, R movies, the Singapore Flyer and just about everything vaguely interesting in this country is not for Singaporeans. It’s for foreign talent. Singapore needs to be exciting not for Singaporeans. Singapore needs to be exciting to be attractive to foreign talent. You? Be contented with the Great Singapore Sale.

 

#4: It’s all about class baby. What does the uncle at the coffeeshop know about constructor standings, parc ferme, fuel strategy, reconnaissance lap, car livery and other complicated jargon? It’s an elite event for wanabes who are pretending to be interested in 140 decibel engines because it’s cool. The average Singapore couldn’t give a toss.  

 

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